Sexual abuse in childhood is a strong predictor of schizophrenia in later life, according to new research presented here at the International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 2011 and published in the July issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Sexual abuse is a contributing cause of 17% of cases of psychotic illness, including schizophrenia, said lead study author Paul Bebbington, MD, emeritus professor of social and community psychiatry at University College London, United Kingdom.
“Sexual abuse appears likely to have considerable and lasting negative effects on individuals’ views of themselves, particularly in relation to other people, and this in turn seems likely to parallel cognitions in schizophrenia,” Dr. Bebbington told Medscape Medical News.
“Thus, at the psychological level, the association is plausibly causal, and at the moment we lack good evidence about what causes schizophrenia,” he added.
Dr. Bebbington said he has been interested in social factors affecting schizophrenia and psychosis for a long time. He also worked in a women’s prison for 6 years.
“This provided everyday clinical experience of the effects of sexual abuse, which was very common, and commonly associated with persistent auditory hallucinosis,” he said.
This long-standing interest prompted the current study. Dr. Bebbington and colleague used data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007, a representative cross-sectional sample that included 7353 adults in England….
Reported by Fran Lowry
Medscape Medical News