Positive psychotic experiences are associated with increased rate of white noise speech illusions in patients and their relatives. However, findings have been conflicting to what degree speech illusions are associated with subclinical expression of psychosis in the general population. The aim of this study was to investigate the link between speech illusions and positive psychotic experiences in a general population sample. In addition, the hypothesis that speech illusions are on the pathway from known risk factors for psychosis (childhood adversity and recent life events) to subthreshold expression of psychosis, was examined.
In a follow-up design (baseline and 6 months) the association between the number of white noise speech illusions and self-reported psychotic experiences, assessed with the Community Assessment of Psychic Experiences (CAPE), was investigated in a general population sample (n = 112). In addition, associations between speech illusions and childhood adversity and life events, using the Childhood Experiences of Care and Abuse questionnaire and the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, were investigated.
No association was found between the CAPE positive scale and the number of white noise speech illusions. The CAPE positive scale was significantly associated with childhood adversity between 12 and 16 years (B = 0.980 p = 0.001) and life events (B = 0.488 p = 0.044). The number of speech illusions showed no association with either life events or childhood adversity.
In the nonclinical population, the pathway from risk factors to expression of subclinical psychotic experiences does not involve white noise speech illusions as an intermediate outcome.