• Schizophrenia is a biological disease of the brain. Research suggests that
schizophrenia may be a developmental disorder resulting from alterations in
the maturation of the nervous system.
• In Australia, 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime
and it is usually life long. Rates of schizophrenia are very similar from country
to country - about 1 percent of the population.
• Around 2000 people between the ages of 15 and 25 will be diagnosed in
Australia this year. It tends to be slightly more prevalent in males than
• Schizophrenia ranks among the top 10 causes of disability in developed
• Many of those affected do not seek medical help and as a result may not
receive appropriate treatment for 2 - 8 years from the first onset of symptoms.
• The disease is characteristically marked by a retreat from reality with delusion
formation, hallucinations, emotional disregulation, and disorganised
• There also subtle signs that develop over time - slow decline in mental
function and social relationships leading to marked personality change, social
isolation, and occupational disability.
• It is a major cause of youth suicide – 30 percent of people with schizophrenia
will attempt suicide, 5 percent will succeed.
• People with schizophrenia have 2.5 times the death rate of the general
population and a life expectancy reduced by an average 10 years (WHO,
Mental Health Report 2001).
• There are genetic factors involved –for example a child of a parent with
schizophrenia has a 10 percent greater chance than other children of
developing the illness. Estimated heritability is 80% - that is, genetic factors
contribute 80% to the cause(s) of schizophrenia.
• Aside from the emotional cost to families, the disease costs the Australian
community more than $2 billion per annum in both direct health costs and
loss of productivity. 85 percent of sufferers receive welfare benefits.
• There is, as yet, no known cause or cure.