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Br J Psychiatry. 1996 Nov;169(5):580-6.

The course of schizophrenia over 13 years. A report from the International Study on Schizophrenia (ISoS) coordinated by the World Health Organization.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital, Nottingham.



This paper describes the 13 year course of illness in an epidemiologically defined and representative cohort of patients selected when they were experiencing their first episode of schizophrenia.


In a 13-year follow-up study of 67 patients with ICD-9 schizophrenia, identified in Nottingham in 1978-80, the course of illness (symptoms, disability and hospitalisation) was assessed using standardised instruments, applied at onset, 1,2, and 13 years. Time to first relapse and first readmission were calculated and plotted as survival curves and patients were assigned to the course types described by Ciompi.


The survival curves show that first relapses and first readmissions occur during the first five years. The amount of time spent in psychotic episodes and in hospital is greatest in the first year of follow-up, but stable thereafter. Social adjustment improves from entry to the study to the first follow-up year, but there is a small deterioration in social adjustment between 2 and 13 years.


The findings reported suggest that after the initial episode the course of schizophrenia is relatively stable. The data support neither concepts of progressive deterioration nor progressive amelioration. There was no evidence of a "late recovery'.

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