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Low social capital is associated with increased rates of schizophrenia

AUGUST 11, 2008

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Psychiatry, at King's College London, have published findings from their study 'Testing the association between the incidence of schizophrenia and social capital in an urban area', funded by the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Stanley Medical Research Institute, in the August issue of Psychological Medicine
Schizophrenia has increased in London over recent decades and is known to be more common in cities than rural areas.   This is the first UK study to have found evidence that the incidence of schizophrenia is associated with dimensions of social capital and also suggests why this is the case.
Social cohesion (defined as how much people trust each other, how much they feel they can rely on each other for help and whether they have a sense of shared values) was measured by questionnaire in a number of neighbourhoods in South London.  The AESOP study (Aetiology and Ethnicity in Schizophrenia and Other Psychoses) - designed to investigate the social and biological determinants of psychosis in London - provided the number of new cases of schizophrenia within each neighbourhood. Those living in low social cohesion areas had twice the rates of schizophrenia than other areas, after all other factors that are known to be associated with schizophrenia were taken into account, including socioeconomic deprivation.  However, the findings suggest that it is not as simple as the lower the social capital the greater the incidence of schizophrenia.  The association between the two is complex as areas that were highly cohesive also had higher rates of psychosis. It is possible that this might be because some people are, conversely, more likely to be marginalised and discriminated against in these areas. This requires further study.
The paper's authors are:  J B Kirkbride (University of Cambridge); J Boydell (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); G B Ploubidis (University of Cambridge); C Morgan (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); P Dazzan (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); K McKenzie (University College London); R M Murray (Institute of Psychiatry at King's); and P B Jones (University of Cambridge).

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