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BMJ. 1994 Oct 29;309(6962):1115-9.

Incidence of psychotic illness in London: comparison of ethnic groups.

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  • 1University Department of Psychiatry, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, London.



To compare annual incidences of psychosis in people from different ethnic groups as defined in the 1991 census.


Catchment area of district psychiatric hospital.


All people aged 16 to 54 years who made contact with a wide range of community and hospital services between 1 July 1991 and 30 June 1992 were screened for psychotic symptoms. Patients with such symptoms were interviewed face to face to collect information on demography, ethnic group, psychiatric history and symptoms, drug use, and how care had been sought. A key informant, usually a close relative, was also interviewed.


Age standardised incidence of schizophrenia and non-affective psychosis according to the ninth edition of the International Classification of Diseases in each ethnic group.


Ninety three patients took part, of whom 38 were assigned a certain or very likely diagnosis of schizophrenia (15 in white population, 14 in black, seven in Asian, and two in others). The age standardised annual incidence of schizophrenia was 2.2 (95% confidence interval 1.5 to 2.9) per 10,000 of the population. The incidence ratio for schizophrenia in all ethnic minority groups compared with the white population was 3.6 (1.9 to 7.1); the corresponding figure for non-affective psychosis was 3.7 (2.2 to 6.2).


Raised incidences of schizophrenia were not specific to the African Caribbeans, which suggests that the current focus on schizophrenia in this population is misleading. Members of all ethnic minority groups were more likely to develop a psychosis but not necessarily schizophrenia. The personal and social pressures of belonging to any ethnic minority group in Britain are important determinants in the excess of psychotic disorders found.

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