New Study Links Infections in Children to Increased Risk for Mental Illness

December 5, 2018

A Nationwide Study in Denmark of the Association Between Treated Infections and the Subsequent Risk of Treated Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents

Ole Köhler-Forsberg, MD1,2,3Liselotte Petersen, PhD4,5Christiane Gasse, PhD4Preben B. Mortensen, DrMedSci4,5,6Soren Dalsgaard, PhD4,7Robert H. Yolken, MD8Ole Mors, PhD1,2,5;Michael E. Benros, PhD3,4

JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 5, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3428

This study was another great example of how Scandanavian health registries can generated much needed public heath data. The study describes looking at all records of infection from 2015-2017, from over 1 million children born in Denmark from 1995 - 2012, and correlating those cases with any recorded contact with a mental health provider subsequently. The authors found that any history of infection needing hospitalization in childhood raised the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder by 84%, and any infection treated by antibiotics for some period were linked to increases in risk for mental illness health contacts by 40%. The authors state “The risk of mental disorders after infections increased in a dose-response association and with the temporal proximity of the last infection. In particular, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality and behavior disorders, mental retardation, autistic spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder, and tic disorders were associated with the highest risks after infections.” One more piece of evidence in the vast literature about infections being one likely cause of these disorders, particularly psychotic disorders, OCD, autism, and tic disorders.