Urban Social Factors Influence Schizophrenia


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Another Schizophrenia Risk Factor: Relative Deprivation

Crowding contributes to schizophrenia risk. Image by LordFerguson.

Crowding contributes to schizophrenia risk. Image by LordFerguson.

The first study of social class and schizophrenia was conducted in 2006. The Villanova University researchers reported in the journal European Psychiatry that they found a “distinct propensity for deficit schizophrenia to be elevated among the poor.

Dr. Brian Kirkpatrick, writing in World Psychiatry in 2008, defined deficit schizophrenia as being characterized by two or more of the following: restricted affect, diminished emotional range,  poverty of speech, curbing of interests, diminished sense of purpose, or diminished social drive over the last year.

Kirkbride and colleagues expanded the investigation into deprivation in their 2012 study.

Though East London is economically deprived compared to the rest of England, they found that people who were deprived compared to others in their neighborhoods were most at risk, “income inequality (although low in our study) may have particularly pronounced effects on psychosis risk in poor communities, where differences between those with and without access to resources may be most marked per se that contributed to higher rates of nonaffective psychosis.”

In a community that is already poor, the very poorest are the most affected.

National Health Care: Policy Implications

In the interview with Decoded Science, Kirkbride was asked about the impact a national health care system might make on rates of schizophrenia in the United States. He replied, “In general, people who go longer without treatment for an underlying mental health problem tend to have worse clinical, functional and social outcomes, so it’s important to reduce the delay before treatment as much as possible. A national health service is probably just one factor of many which would help achieve this. Other factors such as mental health awareness and promotion and appropriate mental health services within any system are likely to be just as important.”

Ethnic separation, crowding, and relative deprivation are some of the risk factors for nonaffective psychosis. Once an underlying problem is found or schizophrenia diagnosed, caregivers should not delay treatment: Becoming more aware of mental illness, and supporting local mental health initiatives, is something anyone can do to help.


Kirkbride, J. et al. Social Deprivation, Inequality and the Neighborhood-Level Incidence of Psychotic Syndromes in East London. (2012). Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Kirkpatrick, B. and Galderisi, S. Deficit Schizophrenia: An Update(2008). World Psychiatry. Accessed December 21, 2012.

Gallagher, BJ. et al. Social Class and Type of Schizophrenia. (2006). European Psychiatry.

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