Background: Because of widely disparate findings from follow-up studies, the likelihood of recovery from schizophrenia remains controversial. We report the extent of recovery from schizophrenia in a population-based cohort.
Method: Subjects with psychotic disorders were recruited from the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. Of the 91 subjects who agreed to participate, 59 were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 12 were diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (schizophreniform psychosis, schizoaffective or delusional disorder) by DSM-III-R criteria. Diagnoses were established by interviewing the subjects, checking the Finnish Hospital Discharge Register, and reviewing their medical records. To assess recovery, we used the Clinical Global Impressions; the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale; the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale; and information about psychiatric hospitalizations, use of antipsychotic medication, and occupational status.
Results: Only 1 subject (1.7%) with DSM-III-R schizophrenia and 3 subjects (25%) with schizophrenia spectrum disorders fully recovered; 1 schizophrenia subject (1.7%) and 2 schizophrenia spectrum subjects (16.7%) experienced partial recovery.
Conclusion: The data indicate that, at least until age 35, complete recovery from schizophrenia is rare, and the prognosis for the disorder is far more serious than suggested by some follow-up studies.