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Infections May Increase Risk of Mental Disorders

Infections May Increase Risk of Mental Disorders

Scandinavian researchers have found that non-severe infections that do not require hospitalization are associated with an increased risk of subsequently developing schizophrenia or depression.

Previous research established that patients who are hospitalized with severe infections have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia and depression. The new study reviewed the correlation between all infections that require treatment and mental disorders and found that even minor infections, such as those which are treated by a general practitioner, can increase the risk of mental disorders.

“Our primary finding was that the risk of both schizophrenia and depression was increased in those who had infections. Both the non-severe infections that are treated by someone’s own GP and the severe infections that require hospitalization.

“The risk was increased in a dose-response correlation, which means that the risk was higher depending on the number of infections,” explains the first author of the study, Dr. Ole Köhler-Forsberg from Aarhus University.

The results have just been published in the internationally recognized journal, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.

The researchers identified all persons born in Denmark between 1985-2002 and studied the correlation between infections and the subsequent risk of schizophrenia and depression in the period 1995-2013.

Investigators reviewed outcomes for infections treated with antibiotics, antiviral drugs, and medicines against fungal diseases and parasites, as well as all admissions due to infections.

During the period covered by the study, 5,759 people were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 13,044 with depression. Of those who were diagnosed with schizophrenia, 17.4 percent had been hospitalized with infections; this was also the case for 18.7 percent of those who were diagnosed with depression.

The study only covers early developing depression and schizophrenia. Thus, the average age of patients who developed schizophrenia was 18.9 years, while for patients who developed a depression, it was 18.7 years.

The findings suggest that infections and the inflammatory reaction that follows afterwards can affect the brain and play a part in the development of severe mental disorders.

“It is also possible that antibiotics in themselves increase the risk of mental disorders due to their effect on the composition of the intestine (microbiota), which has close communication with the brain.

“Finally, our findings may be caused by genetic aspects, which is to say that some people have a higher genetic risk for getting more infections as well as a mental disorder,” said senior researcher on the study, Dr. Michael Eriksen Benros from Copenhagen University Hospital.

Source: Aarhus University/EurekAlert

Infections May Increase Risk of Mental Disorders

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Infections May Increase Risk of Mental Disorders. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Feb 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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