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The New Epidemiology of Schizophrenia

Posted on 10 Apr 2007
John McGrath View article View article

Epidemiologists have offered no shortage of leads to the etiology of schizophrenia, but it is no easy task to turn these findings into practical use"either for prevention or treatment. On 11 April, John McGrath of the University of Queensland, Australia, led us in a discussion of the challenges of turning epidemiologic data into new ideas for prevention and treatment. As we await the transcript posting, we invite you to read two of his recent editorials, from Schizophrenia Bulletin and the Archives of General Psychiatry. Please also read and respond to the comments left below.

 

Our special thanks to the Archives of General Psychiatry for granting open access to this editorial:

McGrath JJ. The surprisingly rich contours of schizophrenia epidemiology.Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;64(1):14-6. View article

John J McGrath. Variations in the Incidence of Schizophrenia: Data Versus Dogma. Schizophr Bull, January 2006; 32: 195-197. View article

 

Background Text
By John McGrath

If forgetting that schizophrenia was a brain disease was one of the great aberrations of twentieth-century medicine, ignoring variations in the incidence of schizophrenia must rank as one of the great aberrations of modern epidemiology. However, research has recently provided us with data that cannot be ignored. The incidence of schizophrenia varies widely among sites, and varies according to a range of demographic variables including sex, urbanicity of place of birth/residence, paternal age, season of birth, and migrant status. High-quality prospective cohort studies have also strengthened the case that cannabis is a risk-modifying factor for schizophrenia.

The target articles outline some of the major features of the "new epidemiology" of schizophrenia. The commentary in the Archives of General Psychiatry canvasses various options about how to get the best "bang for our buck" from future epidemiological studies. It is argued that the clues being generated by schizophrenia epidemiology are too important to ignore.

The discussion will be broad-ranging, and we encourage the readers of Schizophrenia Research Forum to contribute topics for discussion and debate prior to the Live Discussion. For example:

1. What type of epidemiological research needs to be done now?

2. How can we avoid "circular epidemiology" where research perseverates at the ecological level, and fails to move to more refined analytic methods or experimental studies?

3. How can we engage neuroscience in helping to unravel the clues emerging from epidemiology?