Schizophrenia, an Urban Phenomenon

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Image REUTERS/Reuters Staff

New research explains the higher rates of schizophrenia in urban areas. According to researchers from University of Cambridge, higher inequality, population and deprivation can be reasons for the condition being an urban phenomenon.

According to National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has affected people throughout history. People with this disorder hear voices that others don't hear. They may also believe that others are plotting against them. These people may become agitated and withdraw themselves from the society.

About 1 percent of all Americans suffer from this disorder, NIMH says. People with schizophrenia are usually not violent. The risk of suicide is higher by about 10 percent, especially in young males.

"Although we already know that schizophrenia tends to be elevated in more urban communities, it was unclear why. Our research suggests that more densely populated, more deprived and less equal communities experience higher rates of schizophrenia and other similar disorders," said Dr James Kirkbride, lead author of the study from the University of Cambridge.

The data for the study came from the East London first-episode psychosis. 427 people with a psychotic disorder participated in the study. Researchers assessed participants' social environment, and compared the population of the neighborhood and the rates of psychotic disorders.

Researchers found that increased deprivation (like employment, income, education and crime) increased population density, and an increase in inequality (the gap between the rich and poor) raised the risk of schizophrenia. There was an increase of 4 percent points in the incidence of schizophrenia and other similar disorders for every one percent increase in either neighborhood inequality or deprivation.

The study also found that certain differences in the composition of neighborhood affected the rates of schizophrenia. For instance, for black African people who lived in the neighborhood that had people from same ethnicity, rate of schizophrenia increased. However, black African people living in more ethnically diverse community had lower rates of schizophrenia.

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