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Epidemiology of schizophrenia 

Epidemiology of schizophrenia
Chapter:
Epidemiology of schizophrenia
Author(s):

Assen Jablensky

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199696758.003.0075
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date: 23 August 2019

After nearly a century of epidemiological research, essential questions about the nature and causes of schizophrenia still await answers. Two major conclusions stand out. ♦ The clinical syndrome of schizophrenia is robust and can be identified in diverse populations, regardless of wide-ranging demographic, ecological, and cultural differences among them. This suggests that a common pathophysiology is likely to underlie the characteristic symptoms of schizophrenia. On balance, the evidence suggests that schizophrenia incidence and disease risk show relatively modest variation at the level of large population aggregates. However, the study of ‘atypical’ populations or pockets of very high or very low frequency of schizophrenia, such as in genetic isolates or minority groups, may provide novel clues to the aetiology and pathogenesis of disorder. ♦ No single environmental risk factor of major effect on the incidence of schizophrenia has yet been discovered. Further studies using large samples are required to evaluate potential risk factors, antecedents, and predictors for which the present evidence is inconclusive. Assuming that methodological pitfalls will be avoided by risk-factor epidemiology, and that multiple environmental risk factors of small to moderate effect will eventually be identified, the results will complement those of genetic research which also implicate multiple genes and networks. All this suggests that the key to understanding schizophrenia is likely to be in the unraveling of complex gene-environment interactions.

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