National Institute of Mental Health longitudinal study of chronic schizophrenia. Prognosis and predictors of outcome

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1991 Mar;48(3):239-46. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.1991.01810270051007.


We performed a longitudinal study of chronic schizophrenic patients who were hospitalized for research purposes at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Intramural Program in the 1970s and early 1980s. We assessed present course, outcome and predictor data from the initial cohort of 58 young chronic schizophrenic patients who were followed up for 2 to 12 years following their NIMH index hospitalization. At follow-up, the sample showed substantial functional impairment and levels of symptoms with only about 20% of the sample demonstrating a good outcome. In addition, strong intercorrelation was noted among the symptom and functioning indexes at follow-up. Moreover, neuropsychologic tests of frontal cortical functioning were significantly correlated with outcome levels of negative symptoms and social functioning but not with levels of positive symptoms. During the period from the index hospitalization to the follow-up assessment, 78% of the sample suffered a relapse, 38% attempted suicide and 24% had episodes of major affective illness. Furthermore, levels of positive and negative symptoms ascertained when patients received optimal neuroleptic treatment during the index hospitalization significantly predicted outcome levels of symptoms and functioning and time spent hospitalized during the follow-up period. In contrast, levels of index positive and negative symptoms ascertained during the drug-free state did not predict outcome symptoms or functioning. These data suggest that treatment response is a critical predictor variable. We examined the implication of these data for the course of illness in schizophrenics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Probability
  • Prognosis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Recurrence
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Antipsychotic Agents