Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Variable schizophrenia

In Brief

Variable schizophrenia

A study of three areas hardly more than 100 miles apart in the same country shows that, despite what is sometimes suggested, schizophrenia does not occur at the same rate everywhere and in all human groups. Researchers counted people with psychotic symptoms seeking treatment for the first time during a two-year period in three mental health districts: southeast London, Bristol (in the west of England), and Nottingham (in the north). The first two are urban areas and the third a mixed urban and rural area.

Patients were classified as white British or Black and Ethnic Minority (BME), a group that included blacks, people of Indian or Pakistani origin, and non-British white Europeans, largely Irish. On the basis of interviews by a psychiatric panel, about one-third were diagnosed with psychotic mood disorders, one-third with schizophrenia, and one-third other forms of psychosis.

The rate of all forms of psychosis was 3.6 times higher in the BME group than among white British natives. The BME group had a higher proportion of men and was more concentrated in southeast London. But even after correction for age, sex, and location, its rate of psychosis was still three times higher.

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