Schizophrenia: illness impact on family members in a traditional society – rural Ethiopia
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Background: Studies have consistently shown that both the subjective and objective dimensions of burden among family members of schizophrenia patients and other psychiatric disorders are prevalent. However, as most of these reports were from western societies, we lack information on the subject in developing countries. Method: The study was conducted within the framework of the ongoing epidemiological study of course and outcome of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders in a rural population of 15–49 years of age. Three hundred and one cases of schizophrenia and their close relatives participated in the study. Results: Family burden is a common problem of relatives of cases with schizophrenia. Financial difficulty is the most frequently endorsed problem among the family burden domains (74.4 %). Relatives of female cases suffered significantly higher social burden (Z = 2.103; p = 0.036). Work (Z = 2.180; p = 0.029) and financial (Z = 2.088; p = 0.037) burdens affected female relatives more often than males. Disorganised symptoms were the most important factors affecting the family members in all family burden domains. Prayer was found to be the most frequently used coping strategy in work burden (adj. OR = 1.99; 95 % CI = 1.08–3.67; p = 0.026). Conclusion: Negative impact of schizophrenia on family members is substantial even in traditional societies such as those in Ethiopia where family network is strong and important. The scarce existing services in the developing countries should include family interventions and support at least in the form of educating the family members about the nature of schizophrenia illness and dealing with its stigma and family burden.
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