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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Association between infection early in life and mental disorders among youth in the community: a cross-sectional study

Renee D Goodwin

Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, Rm 1505, New York, NY 10032, USA

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:878  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-878

Published: 21 November 2011



The objective of this study was to examine the association between infection early in life and mental disorders among youth in the community.


Data were drawn from the MECA (Methods in Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent psychopathology), a community-based study of 1,285 youth in the United States conducted in 1992. Multiple logistic regression analyses were used to investigate the association between parent/caregiver-reported infection early in life and DSM/DISC diagnoses of mental disorders at ages 9-17.


Infection early in life was associated with a significantly increased odds of major depression (OR = 3.9), social phobia (OR = 5.8), overanxious disorder (OR = 6.1), panic disorder (OR = 12.1), and oppositional defiant disorder (OR = 3.7).


These findings are consistent with and extend previous results by providing new evidence suggesting a link between infection early in life and increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders among youth. These results should be considered preliminary. Replication of these findings with longitudinal epidemiologic data is needed. Possible mechanisms are discussed.