August 08, 2005

Social Stress Has Link to Psychotic Disorders

A recent study done in Sweden examined the role of psychosocial factors in the development of psychotic disorders. The study found that native Swedes were at a lower risks than first-generation immigrants to develop a psychotic disorder. First-generation immigrants were three times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder and four times more likely to develop a schizophrenic disorder. Second-generation immigrants were not more at risk than native Swedes to develop such disorders.

The researchers collected data over a span of 3 years from those who had inpatient or outpatient services (with a possibility of a psychotic disorder) in Malmo, Sweden.

There was a significant difference for those with darker skin as well, "Moreover, the team found that the highest risks of developing psychotic disorder were seen among first-generation immigrants who had "black" skin and those who had come from a developing country, with relative risks of 5.8 and 3.3, respectively" (Psychiatry Source, 2005). This may be due to the fact that they felt even more "different" than the first-generation immigrants who looked like Swedes due to their paler skin or ligher hair.

It is hypothesized that the stress eminating from high social stress or "social defeat" could elicate extra dopamine release or "dopaminergic hyperactivity in mesocorticolimbic circuits". Schizophrenia has been linked to high dopamine levels in those who suffer from the disease. The study gives us a better look at the potential affects that environment and psychosocial factors can have on the individual. The social defeat hypothesis will need to be confirmed by future studies as this is just suggestive rather than definitive.

From: 'Social defeat' linked to psychotic disorder development. Psychiatry Source. August 2, 2005.

This study was published at: Psychol Med 2005; 35: 1155–1163

Related Reading: Social factors 'cause ethnic schizophrenia' (BBC News, 2002)


I think this is true for me. Both my parents are foreigners who eventually moved to this country and I was brought up culturally different than the majority of my school peers. I developed schizophrenia in my twenties but I always felt "different" from other people. I am now a 43 year old caucasian female.

Posted by: Christine at August 15, 2005 03:02 PM

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