BACKGROUND Recently, several investigators have reported an association between influenza epidemics and increased birth rates of 'preschizophrenic' individuals some four to six months later. Here we examine whether maternal exposure to other infectious diseases can also predispose the foetus to later schizophrenia.
METHOD Two independent sets of dates of birth of first admission schizophrenic patients, born between 1938 and 1965 in England and Wales, were obtained from the Mental Health Enquiry in England and Wales. Data on the number of deaths per month from 16 infectious diseases between 1937 and 1965 in England and Wales were also collected. We used a Poisson regression model to examine the relationship between deaths from infectious diseases and schizophrenic births.
RESULTS In the two separate data sets, increased national deaths from bronchopneumonia preceded, by three and five months respectively, increased numbers of schizophrenic births. We did not find any other significant associations between schizophrenic births and any of the other 15 infectious diseases.
CONCLUSIONS The association between deaths from bronchopneumonia and increased schizophrenic births some months later may be a reflection of the fact that bronchopneumonia deaths increase markedly during influenza epidemics.