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Risk factors for schizophrenia and depression can include nonsevere infections

02-16-17 Category: Depression, Mental Health, Research

Risk factors for schizophrenia and depression can include nonsevere infections

There are many ways that a mental disorder can develop, but some risk factors can be surprising. A recent study has suggested that people who had infections treated with antibiotics, especially those who were hospitalized, were at an increased risk for two serious mental illnesses – schizophrenia and depressive disorders.

Considering that serious infections requiring hospitalization had the highest risk, the finding may have implications for the use of treating infections with antibiotics in those identified as having a heightened vulnerability for serious mental illnesses like depression and psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

Risk factors for schizophrenia and depression can include nonsevere infections

A group of Denmark researchers had found six years ago that an autoimmune disease increased people’s risk for schizophrenia by 29 percent and any history of hospitalization due to an infection increased their risk by a whopping 60 percent. However, the latest study, published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica in January 2017, also suggested that people who had infections that did not require hospitalization were also not spared, and even they might be at the risk of developing schizophrenia or depression if treated with an antibiotic medication.

In previous studies, scientists had identified some of the other major risk factors that increase a person’s chance of developing serious mental health conditions. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Genetic factors (e.g., having a parent diagnosed with a serious mental illness)
  • Brain inflammation
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy
  • Exposure to viruses or other infectious pathogens in an expectant mother

Read more about the strongest genetic link for schizophrenia here.

Symptoms of serious mental illness

Both depression and schizophrenia are serious mental illnesses that have highly disabling symptoms. Depressive disorders or clinical depression affects people’s thoughts, feelings and behavior. For instance, a depressed person might have difficulty getting out of bed.

Schizophrenia, on the other hand, is an extremely disabling mental illness and people with this illness may experience following symptoms:

  • Hallucinations or delusions that make them feel as though they’ve lost their grip on reality
  • Negative symptoms that can greatly affect their ability to function normally in everyday life.

Treatment for serious mental illness

Even when a person has a severe mental health condition like schizophrenia or clinical depression, effective treatment can help improve their symptoms. A combination of medication, psychotherapy or psychosocial treatment, coordinated specialty care and recovery management after treatment can profoundly help improve the ability to function.

Sovereign Health’s mental health treatment program offers comprehensive, specialized treatments to people with serious mental illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, substance use disorders or co-occurring disorders. For more information about the Mental Health Treatment Program at Sovereign Health, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Amanda Habermann is a writer for Sovereign Health. A graduate of California Lutheran University, she received her M.S. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in psychiatric rehabilitation. She brings to the team her background in research, testing and assessment, diagnosis and recovery techniques. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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