Evidence for an interrelated cluster of Hallucinatory experiences in the general population: an incidence study

Tais S. Moriyama, Marjan Drukker, Sinan Guloksuz, Magreet ten Have, Ron de Graaf, Saskia van Dorsselaer, N.C.H.F. Geurts - Gunther, Maarten Bak, Jim van Os

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Although hallucinations have been studied in terms of prevalence and its associations with psychopathology and functional impairment, very little is known about sensory modalities other than auditory (i.e. haptic, visual and olfactory), as well the incidence of hallucinations, factors predicting incidence and subsequent course.

Methods: We examined the incidence, course and risk factors of hallucinatory experiences across different modalities in two unique prospective general population cohorts in the same country using similar methodology and with three interview waves, one over the period 1996-1999 (NEMESIS) and one over the period 2007-2015 (NEMESIS-2).

Results: In NEMESIS-2, the yearly incidence of self-reported visual hallucinations was highest (0.33%), followed by haptic hallucinations (0.31%), auditory hallucinations (0.26%) and olfactory hallucinations (0.23%). Rates in NEMESIS-1 were similar (respectively: 0.35%, 0.26%, 0.23%, 0.22%). The incidence of clinician-confirmed hallucinations was approximately 60% of the self-reported rate. The persistence rate of incident hallucinations was around 20-30%, increasing to 40-50% for prevalent hallucinations. Incident hallucinations in one modality were very strongly associated with occurrence in another modality (median OR = 59) and all modalities were strongly associated with delusional ideation (median OR = 21). Modalities were approximately equally strongly associated with the presence of any mental disorder (median OR = 4), functioning, indicators of help-seeking and established environmental risk factors for psychotic disorder.

Conclusions: Hallucinations across different modalities are a clinically relevant feature of non-psychotic disorders and need to be studied in relation to each other and in relation to delusional ideation, as all appear to have a common underlying mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2034-2043
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • At-risk mental state
  • cohort
  • hallucinations
  • incidence
  • mental disorders
  • mental health
  • psychosis
  • psychotic experiences


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