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Social Environmental Trigger for Schizophrenia?

British researchers have discovered an association among some ethnic populations between separation from, and death of, a parent before the age of 16 and development of psychosis. According to the researchers, a person who comes from a broken home is more likely to suffer from schizophrenia and psychotic illnesses than a person who doesn’t.

In a study to be published in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers from London, Cambridge, Nottingham and Trinidad developed a hypothesis to explain the high rates of psychosis in the Black Caribbean and Black African populations in the UK.

The scientist sought to explain the role of specific risk factors in the different ethnic groups, and the impact of social adversity toward the development of psychosis.

The team examined data on 780 people from south London, Bristol and Nottingham (UK), all of whom had signs of a psychotic illness.

Here are some of their findings:

— People of African/Caribbean origin are nine times more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, compared to the British white population

— People of just black African origin (not Caribbean) are six times more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, compared to the British white population

— Being separated from one or both parents for over 12 months raised the chances of having a psychotic illness later in life by 150%

— 31% of African/Caribbean families split up, compared to 18% of white families (in the UK)

The researchers suggest that the high incidence of psychotic illnesses among the Africa/Caribbean population in the UK is partly due to the experience of social adversity early in life. How social adversity may trigger psychological and biological factors is unknown, they say. The researchers added that further research is needed.

The report proposes that psychotic illnesses may not exist purely because of genetics, but social factors may also play a major role. The researchers discarded drug taking as being a factor. Drug taking levels among blacks and whites in the UK is similar.

It is estimated that about 300,000 people suffer from schizophrenia in the United Kingdom.

“Parental separation, loss and psychosis in different ethnic groups: a case-control study”
Psychological Medicine doi:10.1017/S0033291706009330

Source: Psychological Medicine, Cambridge University Press
Source: Medical News Today

Social Environmental Trigger for Schizophrenia?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Social Environmental Trigger for Schizophrenia?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 20, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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