Infectious, atopic and inflammatory diseases, childhood adversities and familial aggregation are independently associated with the risk for mental disorders: Results from a large Swiss epidemiological study

World J Psychiatry. 2016 Dec 22;6(4):419-430. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v6.i4.419.


Aim: To examine the associations between mental disorders and infectious, atopic, inflammatory diseases while adjusting for other risk factors.

Methods: We used data from PsyCoLaus, a large Swiss Population Cohort Study (n = 3720; age range 35-66). Lifetime diagnoses of mental disorders were grouped into the following categories: Neurodevelopmental, anxiety (early and late onset), mood and substance disorders. They were regressed on infectious, atopic and other inflammatory diseases adjusting for sex, educational level, familial aggregation, childhood adversities and traumatic experiences in childhood. A multivariate logistic regression was applied to each group of disorders. In a complementary analysis interactions with sex were introduced via nested effects.

Results: Associations with infectious, atopic and other chronic inflammatory diseases were observable together with consistent effects of childhood adversities and familial aggregation, and less consistent effects of trauma in each group of mental disorders. Streptococcal infections were associated with neurodevelopmental disorders (men), and measles/mumps/rubella-infections with early and late anxiety disorders (women). Gastric inflammatory diseases took effect in mood disorders (both sexes) and in early disorders (men). Similarly, irritable bowel syndrome was prominent in a sex-specific way in mood disorders in women, and, moreover, was associated with early and late anxiety disorders. Atopic diseases were associated with late anxiety disorders. Acne (associations with mood disorders in men) and psoriasis (associations with early anxiety disorders in men and mood disorders in women) contributed sex-specific results. Urinary tract infections were associated with mood disorders and, in addition, in a sex-specific way with late anxiety disorders (men), and neurodevelopmental and early anxiety disorders (women).

Conclusion: Infectious, atopic and inflammatory diseases are important risk factors for all groups of mental disorders. The sexual dimorphism of the associations is pronounced.

Keywords: Atopic diseases; Childhood diseases; Chronic inflammatory diseases; Infectious diseases; Mental disorders; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Risk factors; Substance abuse.