Childhood infections linked to wide range of mental disorders

Infections and the response of the immune system are associated with a wide range of mental disorders in children and adolescents, say Danish researchers.

Their analysis of Danish national registry data included over one million individuals born in Denmark between 1995 and 2012. All infections treated in primary or secondary care were identified from birth until mid-2013, up to a mean age of about 10 years.

Having an infection that required hospital admission was associated with an increased risk of having a diagnosis of any mental disorder (hazard rate ratio [HRR] 1.84, CI95% 1.69 – 1.99) and with redeeming a prescription for psychotropic medication (HRR 1.42, CI95% 1.37 – 1.46). Treatment with an anti-infective agent was associated with a 40% increased risk of any mental disorder diagnosis and a 22% increased risk of obtaining antipsychotic medication. The risk of mental disorders after infection increased with the number of infections and with more recent infection episodes, with the highest risk evident for schizophrenia spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, impaired intellectual development, personality and behaviour disorders (including autistic spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder) and tic disorders.

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