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Higher genetic risk for schizophrenia is associated with living in urban and populated areas

By LucĂ­a Colodro-Conde, Baptiste Couvy-Duchesne, John B. Whitfield, Fabian Streit, Scott Gordon, Marcella D.C. Rietschel, John McGrath, Sarah E Medland, Nicholas G Martin

Posted 23 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/179432 (published DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.1581)

Social stress in urban life has been proposed as an environmental risk factor associated with the increased prevalence of schizophrenia in urban compared to rural areas. However, the potential genetic contributions to this relationship have been largely ignored. Using a community-based sample of 15,544 adults living in Australia, we found higher genetic loading for schizophrenia in participants living in more densely populated (p-value=5.69*10-5) or less remote areas (p-value=0.003). Mendelian Randomization suggested that high schizophrenia genetic risk is a causal factor in choosing to live in denser (p-value=0.046) and less remote areas (p-value=0.044). Our results support the hypothesis of selective migration to more urban environments by people at higher genetic risk for schizophrenia and suggest a need to refine the social stress model for schizophrenia by including genetic influences on where people choose to live.

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