Epidemiology

• Age: the condition usually begins in late adolescence or early adult life, although it can be before puberty in rare cases, and occasionally in later life.

• Sex: schizophrenia is equally common in men and women, but tends to start at a younger age in males.

• Marital status: patients are more likely to be single than the average members of the population, due both to problems in forming relationships and to increased relationship breakdown.

• Fertility is reduced, although it remains unclear whether there are additional biological factors responsible, or whether it is due to the aforementioned relationship difficulties.

• Social class: schizophrenia is commoner in lower socio-economic groups. This is probably due to the patient's drifting down the social scale, before the onset of the illness. The original social class of new patients with schizophrenia, as defined by father's occupation, is distributed according to the distribution of social class in the population.

• Country: the frequency of schizophrenia is roughly the same in most countries; in the countries where there is a different figure, this has generally been found to be due to different criteria for the diagnosis of the condition. In the 1970s, an international survey found that psychiatrists in the UK and a number of other countries diagnosed schizophrenia much less frequently than their counterparts in the USA, and also in Russia, where the communist regime misused psychiatry to confine dissidents.

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