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Illnesses linked to broken homes

21st November 2006

05102006_mentalhealthward1.jpgPeople who have grown up in broken homes may be more than twice as likely to develop a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, say researchers.

A team from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, say their study has suggested psychotic illnesses are not simply brain diseases, but may also be linked to social adversity.

The findings showed separation from one or both parents for more than a year before the age of 16, as a consequence of family breakdown, was associated with a 2.5 fold increased risk of developing psychosis in adulthood.

The researchers also found that schizophrenia was nine times more common in people from African Caribbean origin, and six times more common in people from black African origin than in the white British population.

A family breakdown was found to be more common in the African-Caribbean community (31%) than the white community (18%).

The researchers stressed that more work was needed to understand the role of social adversity.

Mental health charity Rethink, said there was already evidence to suggest that although psychotic illness was linked to the genes, it often took an external trigger for symptoms to become apparent.

Pyschotic illnesses have also been linked to raised levels of the mood-altering chemical dopamine in the brain.

The study is to appear in the journal Psychological Medicine.

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