Foundation-funded Discovery: Early Childhood Immigration Linked to Psychotic Disorders

Ezra Susser , M.D., Dr.P.H. of Columbia University
Ezra Susser , M.D., Dr.P.H.

NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee Ezra Susser , M.D., Dr.P.H. and colleagues at Columbia University have discovered that there is an increased risk for developing a psychotic disorder with early life international immigration. The study—the first to include data on age at migration—was conducted in the Netherlands and found that those who immigrated when under the age of five had a twofold higher risk than those who immigrated at age 10-14 years, and a threefold higher risk than those who immigrated as adults.

Says Dr. Susser: “Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that early life is an important risk period for psychotic disorders. They join the growing body of literature suggesting that adverse social experiences in early life, such as childhood trauma or parental separation raise the risks.” The researchers found other possible causes for increased risk such as stress of ethnic minority status, drastic culture changes, and possibly vitamin D deficiency. These findings supplement the growing field of early intervention and potential preventative techniques for mental illness.

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