The association between physical health and delusional-like experiences: a general population study

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 25;6(4):e18566. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018566.


Objective: Delusional-like experiences (DLE) are prevalent in the community. Recent community based studies have found that DLE are more common in those with depression and anxiety disorders, and in those with subclinical symptoms of depression and anxiety. Chronic physical disorders are associated with comorbid depression and anxiety; however, there is a lack of evidence about the association of DLE with common physical conditions. The aim of this study was to explore associations between the common physical disorders and DLE using a large population sample.

Methods: Subjects were drawn from the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007, a national household survey of 8841 residents aged between 16 and 85 years. The presence of DLE, selected common physical disorders and symptoms were assessed using a modified World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) schedule. We examined the relationship between DLE, and physical health-related variables using logistic regression, with adjustments for potential confounding factors.

Results: Of the 8771, 776 (8.4%) subjects positively endorsed one or more DLE. Of the six physical disorders examined, only diabetes and arthritis were significantly associated with the endorsement of DLE. Of the seven broad physical symptoms explored, only hearing problems were consistently associated with DLE.

Conclusion: Delusional-like experiences are common in the Australian community, and are associated with selected chronic physical disorders and with impaired hearing. The direction of causality between these variables warrants closer research scrutiny.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Delusions / epidemiology*
  • Disease
  • Female
  • Health Surveys*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult