Schizophrenia associated with social inequality
Dr James Kirkbride, lead author of the study from the University of Cambridge, said: "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. This is important because other research has shown that many health and social outcomes also tend to be optimal when societies are more equal."
The scientists used data from a large population-based incidence study (the East London first-episode psychosis study directed by Professor Jeremy Coid at the East London NHS Foundation Trust and Queen Mary, University of London) conducted in three neighbouring inner city, ethnically diverse boroughs in East London: City & Hackney, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.
427 people aged 18-64 years old were included in the study, all of whom experienced a first episode of psychotic disorder in East London between
1996 and 2000.
The researchers assessed their social environment through measures of the neighbourhood in which they lived at the time they first presented to mental health services because of a psychotic disorder. Using the 2001 census, they estimated the population aged 18-64 years old in each neighbourhood, and then compared the incidence rate between neighbourhoods.
Results from the study suggested that a percentage point increase in either neighbourhood inequality or deprivation was associated with an increase in the incidence of schizophrenia and other similar disorders of around 4 percent.
Dr Kirkbride added: "Our research adds to a wider and growing body of evidence that inequality seems to be important in affecting many health outcomes.”