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Who gets schizophrenia?

Men, women, and rarely children can get schizophrenia. Symptoms such as hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) often start by age 30. This mental health disorder affects men and women equally. Race and ethnicity do not seem to make a big difference in who gets schizophrenia. In America, about 1% of the total population has this disease.

Although no one knows exactly why some people get this disease, research has shown that genes are an important piece in the puzzle. In the population in general, the chance of developing schizophrenia is about 1%. But if you have a close relative, such as a sibling or a parent, with the disease, your chance of getting schizophrenia goes up to 10%.

People with schizophrenia may have differences in the way their brains look, or in the chemical balance within their brains. At least two brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, are thought to be involved in schizophrenia: dopamine and glutamate. However, no one knows the exact cause of schizophrenia, so more research needs to be done before we know why certain people get this disease while others do not.
The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Experts wish they could answer this question as decisively as a two-year-old tells you his name, but no one knows yet what specifically causes schizophrenia, or why some people get it and others do not. We do know that it is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 16 and 30, and that it is quite unusual to get diagnosed after 45. That being said, there are risk factors that can increase the likelihood that you will develop schizophrenia. For example, if a parent or sibling has schizophrenia or a delusional disorder, you have a higher risk. If your mother was malnourished, had a viral infection, or took certain types of medicines while she was pregnant with you, you may have a higher risk as well. Keep in mind, though, that just because you have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia does not guarantee you actually will.

Anyone can develop schizophrenia. It affects men and women equally in all ethnic groups. Teens can also develop schizophrenia. In rare cases, children have the illness too.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Although schizophrenia affects men and women equally, symptoms in men generally begin earlier than in women. In most cases, schizophrenia first appears in men during their late teens or early 20s. In women, schizophrenia often first appears during their 20s or early 30s.

Statistics indicate that schizophrenia affects 2.4 million Americans. A child born into a family with one or more schizophrenic family member has a greater chance of developing schizophrenia than a child born into a family with no history of schizophrenia.

After a person has been diagnosed with schizophrenia in a family, the chance for a sibling to also be diagnosed with schizophrenia is 7 to 8 percent. If a parent has schizophrenia, the chance for a child to have the disorder is 10 to 15 percent. Risks increase with multiple affected family members.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.