The more urban of an environment a child lives in—road proximity, houses with lead paint, families in poverty, and income disparity—the greater number of psychotic-like experiences they may have over a year’s time.
It has long been understood that environmental and socio-economic factors, including income disparity, family poverty, and air pollution, increase young adults’ risk of developing psychotic-like experiences, such as subtle hallucinations and delusions that can become precursors to a schizophrenia diagnosis later in life.
Research has long focused on young adults but the new study found these risk factors can also be observed in pre-adolescent children.
“These findings could have a major impact on public health initiatives to reduce the risk of psychotic-like experiences,” says Abhishek Saxena, a graduate student in the psychology department at the University of Rochester, and first author of the study in Frontiers in Psychiatry.
“Past research has largely focused on the biological factors that lead to development of schizophrenia spectrum disorders, but we now know that social and environmental factors can also play a large role in the risk and development of schizophrenia. And this research shows these factors impact people starting at a very young age.”
Researchers looked at data collected from 8,000 kids enrolled in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The findings are in line with past research conducted in young adults, but have not been found like this in pre-adolescences.
“It is disconcerting that the association between these exposures and psychotic-like experiences are already present in late childhood,” says lead author David Dodell-Feder, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience. “The fact that the impact of these exposures may occur as early as pre-adolescence highlights the importance of early prevention.”
The National Institute of Mental Health supported the work.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is one of 21 research sites across the country collecting data for the National Institutes of Health ABCD Study. Since 2017, 340 children from the greater Rochester area have participated in the 10-year study. In all, the study is following 11,750 children through early adulthood looking at how biological development, behaviors, and experiences affect brain maturation and other aspects of their lives, including academic achievement, social development, and overall health.
Source: University of Rochester