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Parental schizophrenia, depression tied to heightened risk of neurological disorders in offspring

06 Dec 2018

Children born to parents with schizophrenia are at increased risk of developing a variety of neurological disorders, as well as visual and hearing disorders, at an early age, a study has found. The same is true for those born to parents with a major depression.

The study included 7,107 children with a parent hospitalized for schizophrenia, 32,494 children with a parent hospitalized for major depression and 172,982 children with healthy parents. Researchers estimated the risk of childhood neurological disorder using Poisson regression.

Compared with children born to healthy parents, those born to parents with schizophrenia were more likely to have been hospitalized before the age of 10 years with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (relative risk [RR], 1.76; 95 percent CI, 1.15–2.69), epilepsy (RR, 1.78; 1.33–2.40), combined neurological disease (RR, 1.33; 1.11–1.60), and certain diseases of the eye (RR, 1.92; 1.17–3.15) and ear (RR, 1.18; 1.05–1.32).

Similar results were obtained in children born to parents hospitalized with a diagnosis of major depression. In this group, an additional risk increase for strabismus was found (RR, 1.21; 1.05–1.40).

Compared with children to healthy parents, children to parents with schizophrenia have increased risk of a variety of neurological disorders as well as visual and hearing disorders at an early age. The risk increase was not specific to schizophrenia but was also seen in children to parents with a diagnosis of major depression.

Researchers cautioned that the study was based on the most severely ill patients and excluded those who may be more mildly affected by the disease. Therefore, the generalizability of the results may be limited to parents with a severe enough psychiatric condition to warrant hospitalization and, more importantly, severe enough eye, ear and neurological diseases so that the children required hospitalization at a young age.

Additional studies are needed to evaluate the risk in children with neurological diseases not requiring hospitalization, as well as a milder form of the eye and the ear conditions, to explore the connection between these diseases and schizophrenia further, they added.

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