Association between Childhood Green Space, Genetic Liability, and the Incidence of Schizophrenia

Kristine Engemann, Carsten Bøcker Pedersen, Esben Agerbo, Lars Arge, Anders Dupont Børglum, Christian Erikstrup, Ole Hertel, David Michael Hougaard, John J. McGrath, Ole Mors, Preben Bo Mortensen, Merete Nordentoft, Clive Eric Sabel, Torben Sigsgaard, Constantinos Tsirogiannis, Bjarni Jóhann Vilhjálmsson, Thomas Werge, Jens Christian Svenning, Henriette Thisted Horsdal

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Childhood exposure to green space has previously been associated with lower risk of developing schizophrenia later in life. It is unclear whether this association is mediated by genetic liability or whether the 2 risk factors work additively. Here, we investigate possible gene-environment associations with the hazard ratio (HR) of schizophrenia by combining (1) an estimate of childhood exposure to residential-level green space based on the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from Landsat satellite images, with (2) genetic liability estimates based on polygenic risk scores for 19 746 genotyped individuals from the Danish iPSYCH sample. We used information from the Danish registers of health, residential address, and socioeconomic status to adjust HR estimates for established confounders, ie, parents' socioeconomic status, and family history of mental illness. The adjusted HRs show that growing up surrounded by the highest compared to the lowest decile of NDVI was associated with a 0.52-fold (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.40 to 0.66) lower schizophrenia risk, and children with the highest polygenic risk score had a 1.24-fold (95% CI: 1.18 to 1.30) higher schizophrenia risk. We found that NDVI explained 1.45% (95% CI: 1.07 to 1.90) of the variance on the liability scale, while polygenic risk score for schizophrenia explained 1.01% (95% CI: 0.77 to 1.46). Together they explained 2.40% (95% CI: 1.99 to 3.07) with no indication of a gene-environment interaction (P =. 29). Our results suggest that risk of schizophrenia is associated additively with green space exposure and genetic liability, and provide no support for an environment-gene interaction between NDVI and schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)1629-1637
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


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