According to a new study led by S.V. Eranti of the Newham Early Intervention Service in London, males develop the first symptoms of schizo-affective illnesses and schizophrenia approximately a year and half before females do. This evidence clears up some conflicting research that had suggested there was a significant difference in age of onset for males and females. Eranti considered several factors in this study, including gender, age of first symptom, age of first consultation, age of first admission, and culture. Using 46 separate studies, Eranti analyzed data from over 29,000 males and 19,000 females and found that males were admitted to the hospital for schizophrenia approximately 1.07 years earlier than females. All factors combined to increase the age of onset difference to that of almost 18 months. When the DSM criteria were used, the difference in admission age was significant. But when the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) measures were used, there was no difference in age of admission.
Eranti also looked at developed countries compared to developing countries and found virtually no differences in age of first symptoms, first consultation, or first admission. Another interesting finding was that males had their first symptoms of schizophrenia 1.63 years earlier than females, but had their first consultation just over a year earlier than the females. This suggests that males may have untreated symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia for longer periods than females. Although this did not fully explain the gender differences on all measures, it is one area that should be examined more closely in future work.
Another factor to consider is the subjectivity of symptoms. Hallucinations and delusions may not be noticed by caregivers and parents until they have been present for some time. Additionally, it is believed that many females have a second spike in symptom severity later in life, which could explain the difference in onset age in early life. These are issues that should be focused on in future research as well. Other risk factors to consider would be family history, comorbidity, and complications that occurred during pregnancy. Eranti added, “There is a need for large studies from developing countries to examine the gender difference in age at onset and factors influencing it.”
Eranti, S. V., et al. Gender difference in age at onset of schizophrenia: A meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine 43.1 (2013): 155-67. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.
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