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Rise in crime and premature death among those with schizophrenia in past 30 years - study

Researchers have also highlighted a potential link between this rise in adverse outcomes and a fall in levels of inpatient care.

Image: rising graph via Shutterstock

THERE HAS BEEN a rise in the number of people with schizophrenia dying prematurely, committing a violent offence, or taking their own life over the past 30 years, a new study of the condition reveals.

Researches have also suggested a tentative link between this increase in adverse outcomes with decreasing levels of inpatient care for patients.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, looks at over 25,000 people with schizophrenia in Sweden between 1972 and 2009, and took into account various risk factors within families such as parental criminality or violence.

Led by Dr Seena Fazel from Oxford University, researches found that the risk of long-term adverse outcomes increased over the study period.

They found that:

  • People with schizophrenia were eight times more likely to die prematurely than the general population.
  • 10.7 per cent of men and around one in 2.7 per cent of women with schizophrenia were convicted of a violent offence within five years of diagnosis.
  • 2.3 per cent of men and 1.7 per cent of women with schizophrenia took their own life.

Although more work is needed to find evidence for a causal connection, the research has placed a tentative link between this rise in adverse outcomes and a decrease in levels of inpatient care.

“In recent years, there has been a lot of focus on primary prevention of schizophrenia – preventing people from getting ill,” Fazel said.

While primary prevention is clearly essential and may be some decades away, our study highlights the crucial importance of secondary prevention – treating and managing the risks of adverse outcomes, such as self-harm or violent behaviour, in patients.

However, Dr Eric Elbogen and Sally Johnson from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine stressed that when discussing the findings of these studies, it must be remembered that “most people with schizophrenia and related disorders are neither violent nor suicidal”.

“Despite the need to ensure people with schizophrenia are provided help to reduce their risks of suicide, violence, or premature death,” they wrote in a linked comment, “Researchers reporting findings also bear the burden of ensuring that most people with schizophrenia and related disorders, who are not violent, are not left to contend with stigma and discrimination.”

Figures from mental health organisation Shine puts the number of people with schizophrenia in Ireland at just under 4,000.


  • Console 1800 201 890 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)

  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm, bereavement)

  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)

  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: Autism and schizophrenia may be caused by the same mutations >

More: Community-based schizophrenia treatment in low income countries better than facility care >

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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