Environmental and socio-economic factors, including income disparity, family poverty, and air pollution, have increased the risk of developing psychotic experiences, such as subtle hallucinations and delusions, which may be precursors to a schizophrenia diagnosis later in life. Despite the research conducted by the University of Rochester, researchers have found these risk factors can be found in pre-adolescent children.
According to Abhishek Saxena, the first author of a recent research on schizophrenia spectrum disorders, these findings might have a significant impact on public health initiatives. While previous research has largely focused on the biological factors that lead to the development of schizophrenia spectrum disorders, we now know that social and environmental factors can also influence people starting at a very young age.
Researchers tracked data from 8,000 children enrolled in the ABCD study. They found that the more urban a child lived in near roads, houses with lead paint hazards, families in poverty, and income disparity the greater number of psychotic experiences they had over a year. These findings are consistent with previous surveys conducted in young adults, but have not been described as this since childhood.
It is disconcerting that the connection between these exposures and psychotic experiences is already present in late childhood, according to David Dodell-Feder, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and the lead author of this study. The fact that these exposures may be seen as early as early childhood underscores the importance of early prevention.
The National Institute of Mental Health has supported this research.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is a group of 21 research centers across the country that have collected data for the National Institutes of Health ABCD study. In total, 340 children from the greater Rochester area have participated in the 10-year study. During this study, participants examined how biological development, behaviors, and experiences influence brain maturation and other aspects of their lives, including academic achievement, social development and overall health.