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An updated and conservative systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiological evidence on psychotic experiences in children and adults: on the pathway from proneness to persistence to dimensional expression across mental disorders

  • R. J. Linscott (a1) (a2) and J. van Os (a2) (a3)

The psychosis-proneness–persistence–impairment model of psychotic disorder incorporates notions of both phenomenological and temporal continuity (persistence) of psychotic experiences (PE), but not structural continuity. Specific testable propositions of phenomenological continuity and persistence are identified.


Propositions are tested by systematic reviews of the epidemiology of PE, persistence of PE and disorder outcomes, and meta-analyses (including Monte Carlo permutation sampling, MCPS) of reported rates and odds ratios (ORs).


Estimates of the incidence and prevalence of PE obtained from 61 cohorts revealed a median annual incidence of 2.5% and a prevalence of 7.2%. Meta-analysis of risk factors identified age, minority or migrant status, income, education, employment, marital status, alcohol use, cannabis use, stress, urbanicity and family history of mental illness as important predictors of PE. The mode of assessment accounted for significant variance in the observed rates. Across cohorts, the probability of persistence was very strongly related to the rate of PE at baseline. Of those who report PE, ∼20% go on to experience persistent PE whereas for ∼80%, PE remit over time. Of those with baseline PE, 7.4% develop a psychotic disorder outcome.


Compelling support is found for the phenomenological and temporal continuity between PE and psychotic disorder and for the fundamental proposition that this relationship is probabilistic. However, imprecision in epidemiological research design, measurement limitations and the epiphenomenological nature of PE invite further robust scrutiny of the continuity theory.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor J. van Os, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616 (DRT 10), 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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