Socioenvironmental adversity and adolescent psychotic experiences: exploring potential mechanisms in a UK longitudinal cohort

Joanne Newbury, Louise Arseneault, Terrie E. Moffitt, Candice L. Odgers, Laura D Howe, Helen L Fisher*, Ioannis Bakolis, Helen L Fisher, al et

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Hypothesis

Children exposed to socioenvironmental adversities (eg, urbanicity, pollution, neighborhood deprivation, crime, and family disadvantage) are more likely to subsequently develop subclinical psychotic experiences during adolescence (eg, hearing voices, paranoia). However, the pathways through which this occurs have not been previously investigated. We hypothesized that cognitive ability and inflammation would partly explain this association.
Study Design

Data were utilized from the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a cohort of 2232 children born in 1994–1995 in England and Wales and followed to age 18. Socioenvironmental adversities were measured from birth to age 10 and classified into physical risk (defined by high urbanicity and air pollution) and socioeconomic risk (defined by high neighborhood deprivation, neighborhood disorder, and family disadvantage). Cognitive abilities (overall, crystallized, fluid, and working memory) were assessed at age 12; and inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor) were measured at age 18 from blood samples. Participants were interviewed at age 18 regarding psychotic experiences.
Study Results

Higher physical risk and socioeconomic risk were associated with increased odds of psychotic experiences in adolescence. The largest mediation pathways were from socioeconomic risk via overall cognitive ability and crystallized ability, which accounted for ~11% and ~19% of the association with psychotic experiences, respectively. No statistically significant pathways were found via inflammatory markers in exploratory (partially cross-sectional) analyses.

Cognitive ability, especially crystallized ability, may partly explain the association between childhood socioenvironmental adversity and adolescent psychotic experiences. Interventions to support cognitive development among children living in disadvantaged settings could buffer them against developing subclinical psychotic phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbersbad017
Pages (from-to)1042-1054
Number of pages13
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number4
Early online date19 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The E-Risk Study was supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council [G1002190]. Additional support was provided by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [HD077482]; the Jacobs Foundation; and the King’s Together Multi and Interdisciplinary Research Scheme (Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund [204823/Z/16/Z]). This work was also supported by a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust [218632/Z/19/Z] to J.B.N.; a grant from the US-National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences [F31ES029358] to A.R.; fellowships from the Jacobs Foundation and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to C.L.O.; a fellowship from the Lundbeck Foundation [R288-2018-380] to L.J.H.R.; and a grant from the Medical Research Council [MR/M020894/1] to L.D.H. H.L.F. was part support by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre for Society and Mental Health at King’s College London [ES/S012567/1]. L.A. is the Mental Health Leadership Fellow for the UK ESRC. A.D. was part funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) in South London and Maudsley National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust and King’s College London. I.B. is supported by the NIHR Maudsley BRC and by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South London at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College London. For the purpose of Open Access, the authors have applied a CC BY public copyright license to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, the ESRC, or King’s College London.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center.


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