Background The reported link between psychological trauma and onset of psychosis remains controversial.

Aims To examine associations between self-reported psychological trauma and psychotic symptoms as a function of prior evidence of vulnerability to psychosis (psychosis proneness).

Method At baseline, 2524 adolescents aged 14–24 years provided self-reports on psychological trauma and psychosis proneness, and at follow-up (on average 42 months later) participants were interviewed for presence of psychotic symptoms.

Results Self-reported trauma was associated with psychotic symptoms, in particular at more severe levels (adjusted OR 1.89, 95% CI1.16–3.08) and following trauma associated with intense fear, helplessness or horror. The risk difference between those with and without self-reported trauma at baseline was 7% in the group with baseline psychosis proneness, but only 1.8% in those without (adjusted test for difference between these two effect sizes: χ 2=4.6, P=0.032).

Conclusions Exposure to psychological trauma may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in people vulnerable to psychosis.

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