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Key Facts

  • Schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide;
  • It usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood and is a lifelong condition;
  • Symptoms include a lack of insight, hallucinations and delusions;
  • Treatment with antipsychotic medication and psychological therapy can reduce symptoms and improve functioning;

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which individuals experience episodes of ‘psychosis’ which involve symptoms such as hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (false ideas), disordered thoughts and problems with feelings, behaviour and motivation. In many people symptoms recur or persist long-term, but some people have just one episode. It first affects people in the age range of 15-35 years. Most commonly it begins in late adolescence and the early twenties in men and later in women.

Schizophrenia is widely misunderstood with many people believing that those affected have a split or dual personality, which is not the case. The media have also exaggerated the likelihood of violent behaviour amongst schizophrenics; a person with schizophrenia is far more likely to be the victim of violent crime than the instigator.

The scale of the problem

Schizophrenia affects about 7 per 1000 of the adult population, but because the disorder is chronic the overall incidence is high, at around 1% of the population. This means that schizophrenia affects around 24 million people worldwide. However, the symptoms are treatable, with medicines and psychological and social care, with costs being equivalent to around US$2 per month per patient.

The earlier treatment is initiated, the more effective it is, however the majority of people with schizophrenia do not receive treatment, which prolongs their illness. Most of those who are treated are cared for in the community with active family and community involvement.

Schizophrenia fact sheet – PDF