Association between duration of untreated psychosis and outcome in cohorts of first-episode patients: a systematic review

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Sep;62(9):975-83. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.62.9.975.


Context: Duration of untreated psychosis (DUP) is the time from manifestation of the first psychotic symptom to initiation of adequate treatment. It has been postulated that a longer DUP leads to a poorer prognosis. If so, outcome might be improved through earlier detection and treatment.

Objectives: To establish whether DUP is associated with prognosis and to determine whether any association is explained by confounding with premorbid adjustment.

Data sources: The CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health), EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PsychLIT databases were searched from their inception dates to May 2004.

Study selection: Eligible studies reported the relationship between DUP and outcome in prospective cohorts recruited during their first episode of psychosis. Twenty-six eligible studies involving 4490 participants were identified from 11 458 abstracts, each screened by 2 reviewers.

Data extraction: Data were extracted independently and were checked by double entry. Sensitivity analyses were conducted excluding studies that had follow-up rates of less than 80%, included affective psychoses, or did not use a standardized assessment of DUP.

Data synthesis: Independent meta-analyses were conducted of correlational data and of data derived from comparisons of long and short DUP groups. Most data were correlational, and these showed a significant association between DUP and several outcomes at 6 and 12 months (including total symptoms, depression/anxiety, negative symptoms, overall functioning, positive symptoms, and social functioning). Long vs short DUP data showed an association between longer DUP and worse outcome at 6 months in terms of total symptoms, overall functioning, positive symptoms, and quality of life. Patients with a long DUP were significantly less likely to achieve remission. The observed association between DUP and outcome was not explained by premorbid adjustment.

Conclusions: There is convincing evidence of a modest association between DUP and outcome, which supports the case for clinical trials that examine the effect of reducing DUP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Databases as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Social Adjustment
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents