Why is Schizophrenia More Prevalent in Developed Nations?

Why is Schizophrenia More Prevalent in Developed Nations?

by Angela Escobar


There could be a number of reasons why schizophrenia is more common in developed nations.

In developing nations we tend to see a more collectivistic society—people think in terms of “we” rather than “I”, as in individualistic societies that are seen in developed nations.  In collectivistic-type cultures, the “social connectedness” between people living in villages might provide the individuals a “cushion” from the symptoms of schizophrenia, assisting in their recovery from the illness (Miles, 2005).  Basically, those with schizophrenia in developing countries are seen as more likely to recover and have a better prognosis compared to those with schizophrenia living in developed countries, where schizophrenia is seen as an illness that does not respond well to treatment (Miles, 2005).

There are other reasons why schizophrenia may be more prevalent in Western society.  The media and technological development may play a part in adding to an already paranoid state of mind, causing a flare-ups and triggers in individuals that are predisposed or already suffering from a mental illness.  The culture in Western society and developing nations also may have a part to do with the prevalence of Schizophrenia.  The cost of living is high, the social standards are high, the competition and pressure to perform and be successful can be cut-throat, divorce rates are high causing nuclearization and polarization between families and loved ones that would otherwise serve as vital support systems, stress is rampant in several if not all aspects of one’s life, causing several individuals to become neurotic, triggering instances and episodes of mental breakdown and psychosis. 

Speaking of cultural factors, every culture views Schizophrenia differently, and their definition of Schizophrenia may not be the same as Western society’s definition of the illness.  The schizophrenic symptom profile will vary from culture to culture (Jilek, 2001).  For example, in the African culture, delusions and of auditory hallucinations are not necessarily a sign of Schizophrenia (Jilek, 2001).  Visual and auditory hallucinations are main symptoms of Schizophrenia in non-Western countries whereas developed Western countries include higher frequencies of depression, paranoia such as thought broadcasting and insertion, and delusions in their symptom profile (Jilek, 2001).

The misuse and abuse of illicit and licit drugs may be another issue, although I am sure that drugs are also readily available in poorer countries just as they are here in the U.S.

References and further reading:

Holland, M. (2005). Schizophrenia more common in developed nations. Medical News Today, Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/25389.php

Jilek, W. (2001, July). Cultural factors in psychiatric disorders. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealth.com/mag1/wolfgang.html

Miles, J. (2005, July 11). Schizophrenia more common in west. Retrieved from http://www.gmhcn.org/files/Articles/SchizophreniaMoreCommoninWest.html

What factors contribute to schizophrenia being more common in the West?

Email your answer to psycheandsociety@usa.com 

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