Schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder. Sufferers of schizophrenia find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and unreal. They typically experience hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, and usually withdraw from the world around them as the illness takes hold. Off all the serious mental health disorders, schizophrenia is possibly the most misunderstood, so here are some interesting facts about schizophrenia.
• The first symptoms of schizophrenia typically appear in teenagers and young adults and most sufferers experience repeat episodes throughout their lives, which can prove devastating unless effective treatment is received.
• The incidence of schizophrenia is fairly consistent worldwide and the illness occurs in about 1% of the adult population. In the US, approximately 2.2 million adults are diagnosed with schizophrenia every year and in every group of 100 people, one of those will develop schizophrenia.
• The cost of treating schizophrenia is immense and it accounts for one quarter of all mental health costs. At any given time, schizophrenics take up one in three beds in psychiatric units and since the vast majority of schizophrenia patients will be unable to hold down a job, they will require a great deal of support and public assistance.
• In the US, the direct cost of treating schizophrenia, plus the cost to society and families, has been estimated to be in the region of $63 billion per year. In the UK, the NHS spends approximately £1 billion per year on treating patients with schizophrenia, plus another £400 million on the provision of personal social services.
• Schizophrenia is one of the top ten causes of disability in developed countries because of the long term effect it has on a patient’s relationships and career: a large number of schizophrenics will not be able to work and will require a high level of social and financial assistance in their lifetime.
What other interesting facts about schizophrenia are there?
• Suicide rates are very high in people diagnosed with schizophrenia, particularly in teens: around 50% of teenagers with schizophrenia will attempt suicide. Further statistics show that 10% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia will be dead within ten years, generally as a result of suicide.
• Contrary to the popular portrayal of schizophrenia in the media, schizophrenics are not prone to random episodes of criminal violence. Although some schizophrenics will become violent towards others, particularly if they have a drink or drugs problem and are not being treated, most schizophrenics are more likely to withdraw from the world, not attack it.
• Statistics have shown that cases of schizophrenia can be linked to both genetic and environmental risk factors. When there is a family history of schizophrenia, a person is around 10% more likely to develop the illness compared to a 1% risk in the general population. But other factors, including infections and environmental stress affecting foetal development can also increase the risk of schizophrenia.
• There is a strong link between schizophrenia and homelessness and at any given time, 6% of all schizophrenics are living on the streets.
• Rather worryingly, a recent US study showed that at least half of all schizophrenics had received no treatment for their illness in the previous twelve months.