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18-01-2011 | Mental health | Article

Gender differences in schizophrenia risk develop in later adolescence


Free abstract

MedWire News: There are no significant gender differences in the risk for schizophrenia before the age of 17 years, but men are significantly more likely than women to develop the mental health condition after this age, research shows.

Writing in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, K Kleinhaus (New York University School of Medicine, USA) and colleagues explain that previous research has shown that men are more likely to develop schizophrenia than women. However, they add that "this may not be true at all ages."

To investigate the incidence of schizophrenia in both genders at various ages, the team studied data from the Jerusalem Perinatal Study on 46,388 men and 43,680 women who were born between 1964 and 1976 and were followed up until 2004 when they were aged 29-41 years.

In total, 860 individuals were admitted to psychiatric hospitals and diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders during the study period, with overall incidence in both genders combined rising steadily through childhood and adolescence, reaching a maximum at age 20-24 years, and declining thereafter.

Life estimates of the cumulative incidence of schizophrenia by the age of 40 years were 1.44% in men and 0.86% in women.

Overall, men were 1.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than women.

Further analysis showed that there was no significant difference in the risk for schizophrenia between men and women before the age of 17 years. However, at the age of 17 years men were 1.7 times more likely to develop the condition than women, and there was no significant change in this differential risk for schizophrenia between the genders as participants aged.

Kleinhaus and colleagues conclude: "This study bears out the well-known observation that generally males have a higher incidence of schizophrenia than females.

"In our population, however, this excess incidence in males, approximated by first admission for treatment, appears only from age 17, whereas at younger ages there is no significant difference between the sexes."

They add that further studies in other cohorts are now needed to confirm their findings.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Mark Cowen

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