Do life events lead to psychosis ? Schiz Bulle. July.2013


Social adversity is considered as a risk factor for psychosis. Evidence for childhood trauma has accumulated recently.Psychological and biological explanations attempt to elucidate the link between life events and psychosis.Threatening and intrusive events can influence how a person appraise the social world and this can lead to hostile perceptions of the external world. Repeated exposures like that may  push such ideas to delusional quality. Stress-induced dysregulation of the HPA axis may  give rise to increased dopamine receptor densities and dopamine release. 

Stephanie Beards, Charlotte Gayer-anderson, Susana Borges, Michael E. Dewey, Helen L. Fisher, and Craig Morgan report the results of a meta- analysis of the evidence for association between life events and psychosis in adult life.


Within the clinical studies, cases with psychosis were 6 to 8 times more likely to report life events com- pared with controls in the period leading up to onset  where as this was 2-7 times among general population studies.

Timing- life events may exert their influence over a longer period.  Studies also show that independent events (ie events not influenced by possible mental state alterations, e.g.: death of  a relative) are increased showing possible causal relationship.

The meta-analysis of a subset of 13 studies showed that psychotic disorder/experiences are roughly 3 times more likely among those exposed to recent life events than controls.

Conclusions: Literature ( adult life events and psychosis) is small. There is a 3-fold increased odds of life events in the period prior to psychosis onset. Intrusive events may be particularly important.

Summary of the article:

Life Events and Psychosis: A Review and Meta-analysis.

Beards S, Gayer-Anderson C, Borges S, Dewey ME, Fisher HL, Morgan C. Schizophr Bull. 2013 Jul;39(4):740-7.

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