Fertility and marital rates in first-onset schizophrenia
- Cite this article as:
- Hutchinson, G., Bhugra, D., Mallett, R. et al. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (1999) 34: 617. doi:10.1007/s001270050183
Background: Many studies have demonstrated that in schizophrenia there are decreased rates of marriage, fertility and marital fertility. However, it is not clear whether this finding occurs as a social consequence of having the illness or is an inherent part of the illness. One would expect it to vary across cultures if it were being mediated by social and cultural factors. Method: We investigated this by reviewing the marital and fertility data from a multi-ethnic first-contact group of patients in London with CATEGO broadly defined schizophrenia, and comparing this with similar data from a group of controls who were matched for age, gender and ethnicity. Results: Our sample comprised 38 White British, 38 Caribbean and 24 Asian subjects. The Asian group were significantly older (mean age 38, P < 0.003) and had a greater percentage of females (50%). When compared to controls, the White and Caribbean patients, but not the Asians, had decreased marital and stable relationship rates. There was also decreased fertility and marital fertility as evidenced by number of children among the Whites and Caribbeans, but again significantly not among the Asians. Marital status did not predict fertility rates, particularly among the Caribbeans. Regression analysis demonstrated an effect for age on the number of children but not on marital status. Conclusions: These findings suggest that marital and reproductive behaviour are reduced in schizophrenia, but this effect may be mediated by social and cultural factors and therefore not apply consistently across ethnicity. Further research is needed to prospectively investigate populations to determine whether impairments of this nature are inherent or consequential to the illness.