With Schizophrenia, Sooner is Better

Schizophrenia has better outcomes in the long term if a person is treated faster

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) It seems to make logical sense for any mental health condition: the faster you get treatment, the better you end up. If you have schizophrenia, it's true even decades later.

A recent study has found that the sooner you get treatment after symptoms show up, the better your long-term outcomes are.

"Seek treatment right away for schizophrenia - and stick with it."

The study, led by Diego Primavera, from the Department of Public Health within the Section of Psychiatry and Psychiatric Clinic at Italy's University of Cagliari, included data for patients for as many as 33 years.

The study involved 80 patients with schizophrenia, including 52 men and 28 women. The researchers analyzed data from their clinical records that spanned an average of 25 years.

The shortest record for the patient was 16 years, and the longest was 33 years.

The researchers added up the time it took for each person to get treatment after the first symptoms of their schizophrenia started showing up.

Then the researchers looked at the number of hospitalizations for each patient over the study period and the number of attempted suicides.

The researchers also looked at how each patient's illness progressed over their lives and how well they could carry out the activities of everyday life.

The "Global Assessment of Functioning" assessment was used to measure how well the patients could function in general and do the activities of daily living.

The course of each person's illness was classified as "favorable" or "unfavorable." Unfavorable meant the person had continuous symptoms or many episodes of illness with problems in between.

Favorable meant they partially or fully recovered or else they had episodes but without symptoms in between their episodes.

The average time the patients went before first getting treatment was 49 months (about 4 years). The length varied among patients from 1 month to 26 years.

The patients who received treatment the fastest after symptoms showed up were more likely to have a "favorable" course of illness.

Among those who received treatment for their schizophrenia within a year of their first symptoms, 29 percent had a favorable course of the illness, compared to 8.6 percent of those who didn't receive treatment for over a year.

In addition, 86 percent of the patients who received treatment within a year had only 3 hospital admissions or fewer across the entire study period.

In comparison, 62 percent of those who received treatment more than a year after their first schizophrenia symptoms had three hospital stays or fewer.

The patients who received treatment within a year had higher scores on average with their daily living assessment than the ones who didn't get treatment for over a year.

The average score for those treated within a year was 25 percent higher than the average for those who weren't treated for more than a year.

The researchers concluded that the time it takes for a person with schizophrenia to first get treatment makes a difference to their long-term wellness and recovery.

The study was published August 2 in the Annals of General Psychiatry. Information was unavailable on funding. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 20, 2012
Last Updated:
August 23, 2012