Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 49
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Esan, Oluyomi B. Ojagbemi, Akin and Gureje, Oye 2012. Epidemiology of schizophrenia – An update with a focus on developing countries. International Review of Psychiatry, Vol. 24, Issue. 5, p. 387.

    Gill, Michael 2012. Developmental psychopathology: The role of structural variation in the genome. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 24, Issue. 04, p. 1319.

    Gardner, R M Dalman, C Wicks, S Lee, B K and Karlsson, H 2013. Neonatal levels of acute phase proteins and later risk of non-affective psychosis. Translational Psychiatry, Vol. 3, Issue. 2, p. e228.

    Vassos, E. Agerbo, E. Mors, O. and Pedersen, C. B. 2016. Urban-rural differences in incidence rates of psychiatric disorders in Denmark. The British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 208, Issue. 5, p. 435.

    DeVylder, Jordan E. and Lukens, Ellen P. 2013. Family history of schizophrenia as a risk factor for axis I psychiatric conditions. Journal of Psychiatric Research, Vol. 47, Issue. 2, p. 181.

    van Os, Jim Kenis, Gunter and Rutten, Bart P. F. 2010. The environment and schizophrenia. Nature, Vol. 468, Issue. 7321, p. 203.

    Benros, Michael E. 2013. Epidemiological prospective studies of inflammation, infections, autoimmune diseases and their association with schizophrenia and mood disorders. Neurology, Psychiatry and Brain Research, Vol. 19, Issue. 4, p. 170.

    van Os, Jim 2011. From schizophrenia metafacts to non-schizophrenia facts. Schizophrenia Research, Vol. 127, Issue. 1-3, p. 16.

    Cardno, A. G. and Owen, M. J. 2014. Genetic Relationships Between Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizoaffective Disorder. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 40, Issue. 3, p. 504.

    Tsuang, Ming T Stone, William S and Auster, Tracey L 2010. Prevention of schizophrenia. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, Vol. 10, Issue. 7, p. 1165.

    Fusar-Poli, P. and Van Os, J. 2013. Lost in transition: setting the psychosis threshold in prodromal research. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Vol. 127, Issue. 3, p. 248.

    Docherty, Anna R. Moscati, Arden A. and Fanous, Ayman H. 2016. Cross-Disorder Psychiatric Genomics. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, Vol. 3, Issue. 3, p. 256.

    Cardno, Alastair G. Rijsdijk, Frühling V. West, Robert M. Gottesman, Irving I. Craddock, Nick Murray, Robin M. and McGuffin, Peter 2012. A twin study of schizoaffective-mania, schizoaffective-depression, and other psychotic syndromes. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Vol. 159B, Issue. 2, p. 172.

    Wigman, J. T. W. van Nierop, M. Vollebergh, W. A. M. Lieb, R. Beesdo-Baum, K. Wittchen, H.-U. and van Os, J. 2012. Evidence That Psychotic Symptoms Are Prevalent in Disorders of Anxiety and Depression, Impacting on Illness Onset, Risk, and Severity--Implications for Diagnosis and Ultra-High Risk Research. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 38, Issue. 2, p. 247.

    Clemmensen, L. van Os, J. Drukker, M. Munkholm, A. Rimvall, M. K. Væver, M. Rask, C. U. Bartels-Velthuis, A. A. Skovgaard, A. M. and Jeppesen, P. 2016. Psychotic experiences and hyper-theory-of-mind in preadolescence – a birth cohort study. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 46, Issue. 01, p. 87.

    Gunawardana, Lihini Zammit, Stanley Lewis, Glyn Gunnell, David Hollis, Chris Wolke, Dieter and Harrison, Glynn 2011. Examining the association between maternal analgesic use during pregnancy and risk of psychotic symptoms during adolescence. Schizophrenia Research, Vol. 126, Issue. 1-3, p. 220.

    Wisner, Krista M. Elvevåg, Brita Gold, James M. Weinberger, Daniel R. and Dickinson, Dwight 2011. A closer look at siblings of patients with schizophrenia: The association of depression history and sex with cognitive phenotypes. Schizophrenia Research, Vol. 126, Issue. 1-3, p. 164.

    Sariaslan, A. Larsson, H. D'Onofrio, B. Langstrom, N. Fazel, S. and Lichtenstein, P. 2015. Does Population Density and Neighborhood Deprivation Predict Schizophrenia? A Nationwide Swedish Family-Based Study of 2.4 Million Individuals. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 41, Issue. 2, p. 494.

    Varghese, Daniel Saha, Sukanta Scott, James D. Chan, Raymond C.K. and McGrath, John J. 2011. The association between family history of mental disorder and delusional-like experiences: A general population study. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, Vol. 156, Issue. 4, p. 478.

    van Os, J. and Linscott, R. J. 2012. Introduction: The Extended Psychosis Phenotype--Relationship With Schizophrenia and With Ultrahigh Risk Status for Psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 38, Issue. 2, p. 227.


Psychiatric family history and schizophrenia risk in Denmark: which mental disorders are relevant?

  • P. B. Mortensen (a1), M. G. Pedersen (a1) and C. B. Pedersen (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 17 July 2009

A family history of schizophrenia is the strongest single indicator of individual schizophrenia risk. Bipolar affective disorder and schizo-affective disorders have been documented to occur more frequently in parents and siblings of schizophrenia patients, but the familial occurrence of the broader range of mental illnesses and their role as confounders have not been studied in large population-based samples.


All people born in Denmark between 1955 and 1991 (1.74 million) were followed for the development of schizophrenia (9324 cases) during 28 million person-years at risk. Information of schizophrenia in cohort members and psychiatric history in parents and siblings was established through linkage with the Danish Psychiatric Central Register. Data were analysed using log-linear Poisson regression.


Schizophrenia was, as expected, strongly associated with schizophrenia and related disorders among first-degree relatives. However, almost any other psychiatric disorder among first-degree relatives increased the individual's risk of schizophrenia. The population attributable risk associated with psychiatric family history in general was 27.1% whereas family histories including schizophrenia only accounted for 6.0%. The general psychiatric family history was a confounder of the association between schizophrenia and urbanization of place of birth.


Clinically diagnosed schizophrenia is associated with a much broader range of mental disorders in first-degree relatives than previously reported. This may suggest risk haplotypes shared across many disorders and/or shared environmental factors clustering in families. Failure to take the broad range of psychiatric family history into account may bias results of all risk-factor studies of schizophrenia.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: P. B. Mortensen, National Centre for Register-based Research, University of Aarhus, Taasingegade 1, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

AG Cardno , FV Rijsdijk , PC Sham , RM Murray , P McGuffin (2002). A twin study of genetic relationships between psychotic symptoms. American Journal of Psychiatry 159, 539545.

JE Chubb , NJ Bradshaw , DC Soares , DJ Porteous , JK Millar (2008). The DISC locus in psychiatric illness. Molecular Psychiatry 13, 3664.

N Craddock , MC O'Donovan , MJ Owen (2006). Genes for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? Implications for psychiatric nosology. Schizophrenia Bulletin 32, 9–16.

ES Gershon , LE DeLisi , J Hamovit , JI Nurnberger , ME Maxwell , J Schreiber , D Dauphinais , CW Dingman , JJ Guroff (1988). A controlled family study of chronic psychoses – schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry 45, 328336.

R Heun , M Kockler , U Ptok (2002). Psychiatric disorders in relatives of subjects with Alzheimer's disease. No evidence for common genetic risk factors. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 252, 9397.

KS Kendler , CO Gardner (1997). The risk for psychiatric disorders in relatives of schizophrenic and control probands: a comparison of three independent studies. Psychological Medicine 27, 411419.

KS Kendler , M McGuire , AM Gruenberg , A Ohare , M Spellman , D Walsh (1993 a). The Roscommon Family Study. 1. Methods, diagnosis of probands, and risk of schizophrenia in relatives. Archives of General Psychiatry 50, 527540.

KS Kendler , M McGuire , AM Gruenberg , A Ohare , M Spellman , D Walsh (1993 b). The Roscommon Family Study. 3. Schizophrenia-related personality-disorders in relatives. Archives of General Psychiatry 50, 781788.

TM Laursen , R Labouriau , RW Licht , A Bertelsen , T Munk-Olsen , PB Mortensen (2005). Family history of psychiatric illness as risk factor for schizoaffective disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry 62, 841848.

P Lichtenstein , BH Yip , C Bjork , Y Pawitan , TD Cannon , PF Sullivan , CM Hultman (2009). Common genetic determinants of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in Swedish families: a population-based study. Lancet 373, 234239.

W Maier , B Hofgen , A Zobel , M Rietschel (2005). Genetic models of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: overlapping inheritance or discrete genotypes? European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 255, 159166.

C McDonald , ET Bullmore , PC Sham , X Chitnis , H Wickham , E Bramon , RM Murray (2004). Association of genetic risks for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with specific and generic brain structural endophenotypes. Archives of General Psychiatry 61, 974984.

AC Morrison , LA Bare , LE Chambless , SG Ellis , M Malloy , JP Kane , JS Pankow , JJ Devlin , JT Willerson , E Boerwinkle (2007). Prediction of coronary heart disease risk using a genetic risk score: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 166, 2835.

PB Mortensen , CB Pedersen , T Westergaard , J Wohlfahrt , H Ewald , O Mors , PK Andersen , M Melbye (1999). Effects of family history and place and season of birth on the risk of schizophrenia. New England Journal of Medicine 340, 603608.

S Onstad , I Skre , J Edvardsen , S Torgersen , E Kringlen (1991). Mental disorders in first-degree relatives of schizophrenics. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 83, 463467.

MJ Owen , N Craddock , A Jablensky (2007). The genetic deconstruction of psychosis. Schizophrenia Bulletin 33, 905911.

J Parnas , TD Cannon , B Jacobsen , H Schulsinger , F Schulsinger , SA Mednick (1993). Lifetime DSM-III-R diagnostic outcomes in the offspring of schizophrenic mothers. Results from the Copenhagen High-Risk Study. Archives of General Psychiatry 50, 707714.

CB Pedersen , PB Mortensen (2001). Family history, place and season of birth as risk factors for schizophrenia in Denmark: a replication and reanalysis. British Journal of Psychiatry 179, 4652.

H Stefansson , D Rujescu , S Cichon , OPH Pietilainen , A Ingason , S Steinberg , R Fossdal , E Sigurdsson , T Sigmundsson , JE Buizer-Voskamp , T Hansen , KD Jakobsen , P Muglia , C Francks , PM Matthews , A Gylfason , BV Halldorsson , D Gudbjartsson , TE Thorgeirsson , A Sigurdsson , A Jonasdottir , A Jonasdottir , A Bjornsson , S Mattiasdottir , T Blondal , M Haraldsson , BB Magnusdottir , I Giegling , HJ Moller , A Hartmann , KV Shianna , DL Ge , AC Need , C Crombie , G Fraser , N Walker , J Lonnqvist , J Suvisaari , A Tuulio-Henriksson , T Paunio , T Toulopoulou , E Bramon , M Di Forti , R Murray , M Ruggeri , E Vassos , S Tosato , M Walshe , T Li , C Vasilescu , TW Muhleisen , AG Wang , H Ullum , S Djurovic , I Melle , J Olesen , LA Kiemeney , B Franke , C Sabatti , NB Freimer , JR Gulcher , U Thorsteinsdottir , A Kong , OA Andreassen , RA Ophoff , A Georgi , M Rietschel , T Werge , H Petursson , DB Goldstein , MM Nothen , L Peltonen , DA Collier , D St Clair , K Stefansson (2008). Large recurrent microdeletions associated with schizophrenia. Nature 455, 232236.

PF Sullivan , KS Kendler , MC Neale (2003). Schizophrenia as a complex trait: evidence from a meta-analysis of twin studies. Archives of General Psychiatry 60, 11871192.

J Van Os , BP Rutten , R Poulton (2008). Gene–environment interactions in schizophrenia: review of epidemiological findings and future directions. Schizophrenia Bulletin 34, 10661082.

NR Wray , ME Goddard , PM Visscher (2008). Prediction of individual genetic risk of complex disease. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development 18, 257263.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *