Skip to main content

13-08-2013 | Mental health | Article

Stable traits dominate psychosis risk


Free abstract

medwireNews: Researchers have found that variability in psychotic symptom expression is largely caused by stable traits.

Such traits include depressiveness and low sense of mastery and self-esteem and appear to have the greatest impact at around 30 years of age.

From a clinical perspective, the findings indicate that “psychosocial interventions might be helpful for vulnerable individuals,” say the study researchers. As mastery and self-esteem were helpful in coping with or even preventing psychosis symptoms, they suggest that interventions directed toward strengthening these personality traits might help psychosis-prone individuals.

The team, led by Wulf Rössler (University of Zurich, Switzerland), analyzed data for 335 participants of the Zurich Study, who had been screened with the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised repeatedly between 1979 and 2008, when aged 20/21 years and 49/50 years, respectively.

When the participants were between the ages of 22 and 30 years, variance in subclinical psychosis symptoms (schizotypal signs and schizophrenia nuclear symptoms) “tended to be associated to a stable and enduring liability rather than to a time-dependent, fluctuating, and occasion-specific liability,” say the researchers.

Stable traits explained 72% of the variance in schizotypal signs and 64% of variance in schizophrenia nuclear symptoms in individuals aged 22/23 years, and explained a maximum of 75% and 89% of variance, respectively, in 27/28-year olds.

By comparison, transient states explained a respective 29% and 36% in individuals aged 22/23 years and 25% and 11% in 27/28-year olds.

Depressiveness and low sense of mastery and self-esteem were the stable traits primarily associated with variance in subclinical psychosis, particularly schizotypal signs.

The time-dependent transient states underlying variance were mainly related to employment and partnership problems between the ages of 27 and 50 years. But Rössler and team also note in Schizophrenia Research that the strongest association was attributed to drug use at age 20/21 years, a finding that they say gives weight to recommending all vulnerable individuals abstain from substance use.

They conclude that their findings suggest a stable liability for subclinical psychosis, adding that this trait-related vulnerability could constitute a tendency toward not only schizophrenia but also a wide range of other psychopathologic conditions.

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Lucy Piper, Senior medwireNews Reporter