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Parental Psychiatric Illness Ups Risk in Offspring

Risk in offspring not confined to concordant disorders, increased if two parents affected

TUESDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Having one parent with a history of a mental health disorder is associated with an increased risk of a range of mental health disorders, and offspring have an even stronger risk if both parents have a mental health disorder, according to research published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Kimberlie Dean, of King's College London, and colleagues conducted a population-based cohort study of all offspring born in Denmark between 1980 and 1994 and conducted follow-up to December 2008. The purpose of the study was to examine the range of mental health disorders among offspring of parents with serious mental disorder (SMD) and other psychiatric disorders, and to compare the results to those found in offspring whose parents had no history of mental disorder.

The researchers found that both parents having a history of mental disorder had the strongest association with offspring also having a psychiatric diagnosis. The increased risk of mental illness in offspring was not limited to diagnoses concordant with the parent's disorder; for example, offspring of two parents with SMD were eight times more likely to develop substance misuse disorders. Parental SMD was positively associated with the offspring having a mental disorder of virtually any type. Offspring of parents with a history of "other mental disorder" also had an increased risk of developing a range of mental disorders.

"The impact of parental history of mental disorder was not confined to elevated offspring risk of concordant disorders but rather offspring are at increased risk of a wide range of mental disorders, particularly those with two affected parents. Our results imply an important role for etiological factors giving rise to broad, as well as specific, familial vulnerabilities. These findings also have potential implications for diagnostic classification," the authors write.

A co-author has received speaker fees from Lilly, Janssen, BMS, and AstraZeneca.

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