Background: Religious delusions are a common symptom in patients experiencing psychosis, with varying prevalence rates of religious delusions across cultures and societies. To enhance our knowledge of this distinct psychotic feature, we investigated the mutually-adjusted association of genetic and environmental factors with occurrence of religious delusions.
Methods: We studied 262 adult German patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Association with lifetime occurrence of religious delusions was tested by multiple logistic regression for the following putative predictors: self-reported degree of religious activity, DSM-IV diagnosis, sex, age, education level, marital status, presence of acute delusion at the time of interview and an individual polygenic schizophrenia-risk score (SZ-PRS, available in 239 subjects).
Results: Of the 262 patients, 101 (39%) had experienced religious delusions. The risk of experiencing religious delusions was significantly increased in patients with strong religious activity compared to patients without religious affiliation (OR = 3.6, p = 0.010). Low or moderate religious activity had no significant effect. The same analysis including the SZ-PRS confirmed the effect of high religious activity on occurrence of religious delusions (OR = 4.1, p = 0.008). Additionally, the risk of experiencing religious delusions increased with higher SZ-PRS (OR 1.4, p = 0.020, using pT = 0.05 for SZ-PRS calculation). None of the other variables were significantly associated with lifetime occurrence of religious delusions.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that strong religious activity and high SZ-PRS are independent risk factors for the occurrence of religious delusions in schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
Keywords: Religious activity; Religious delusions; Schizoaffective disorder; Schizophrenia; Schizophrenia polygenic risk score.
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