A new major study has found a link between childhood infections, both severe and mild, and an increased risk of mental health disorders in old age.
Using health and medical data from over 1 million people born in Denmark between 1995 and 2012, researchers found that childhood infections requiring hospitalization were associated with approximately 84% increased risk of diagnosing mental disorders and a 42% increase in the risk of using psychotropic drugs in the treatment of this.
Less severe infections that have been treated with drugs such as antibiotics have been associated with a risk of 40% and 22%, respectively. The results are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
"The surprising finding was that infections in general – and in particular less severe infections, those treated with anti-infectious agents – increased the risk for most mental disorders."The lead author, Dr. Ole Köhler-Forsberg, a neuroscientist and doctoral student at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, told CNN.
The increased risk concerns the emergence of mental health problems ranging from spectrum disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, to personality and behavioral disorders such as OCD and l & # 39; ADD.
"For some mental disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, the increased risk was particularly high, reaching an incredible 8-fold increase in risk in adolescents,"The researchers wrote in an accompanying editorial.
It is important to stress, however, that the team stressed that correlation is not the same as causality and that substantial further research is needed given the number of variables involved, including genetics and socio-economic factors, which were beyond the scope of their research.
"We can not conclude any causality. So we can not say that this infection has led to this mental disorder. So we can only speculate", Said Köhler-Forsberg."The general message to take home is that there is an intimate connection between the body, the immune system, infections, inflammation and the brain".
The study also does not take into account potential misdiagnosis and incorrect reporting in medical data. The researchers believe that their first study indicates that any infection treated is associated with such a wide range of mental disorders in both childhood and adolescence.
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