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Infections May Raise The Risk Of Mental Illness In Children

A large study of Danish kids finds that childhood infections are linked with a higher risk of developing some mental illnesses. The risk is highest in the months immediately following the infection.
Childhood infections may increase the risk of developing certain mental illnesses in childhood and adolescence. Source: Kathleen Finlay

Researchers have traced a connection between some infections and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. New research from Denmark bolsters that connection. The study, published Thursday in JAMA Psychiatry, shows that a wide variety of infections, even common ones like bronchitis, are linked to a higher risk of many mental illnesses in children and adolescents.

The findings support the idea that infections affect mental health, possibly by influencing the immune system.

"This idea that activation of the body's immune inflammatory system as a causative factor in ... select mental illnesses is one that has really caught on," says , a professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who wasn't involved in the study. "This study adds to that generally, but builds the case further in a compelling

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