Objective: Individuals at high risk for schizophrenia may benefit from early intervention, but few validated risk predictors are available. Genetic profiling is one approach to risk stratification that has been extensively validated in research cohorts. The authors sought to test the utility of this approach in clinical settings and to evaluate the broader health consequences of high genetic risk for schizophrenia.
Methods: The authors used electronic health records for 106,160 patients from four health care systems to evaluate the penetrance and pleiotropy of genetic risk for schizophrenia. Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) for schizophrenia were calculated from summary statistics and tested for association with 1,359 disease categories, including schizophrenia and psychosis, in phenome-wide association studies. Effects were combined through meta-analysis across sites.
Results: PRSs were robustly associated with schizophrenia (odds ratio per standard deviation increase in PRS, 1.55; 95% CI=1.4, 1.7), and patients in the highest risk decile of the PRS distribution had up to 4.6-fold higher odds of schizophrenia compared with those in the bottom decile (95% CI=2.9, 7.3). PRSs were also positively associated with other phenotypes, including anxiety, mood, substance use, neurological, and personality disorders, as well as suicidal behavior, memory loss, and urinary syndromes; they were inversely related to obesity.
Conclusions: The study demonstrates that an available measure of genetic risk for schizophrenia is robustly associated with schizophrenia in health care settings and has pleiotropic effects on related psychiatric disorders as well as other medical syndromes. The results provide an initial indication of the opportunities and limitations that may arise with the future application of PRS testing in health care systems.