Do women express and experience psychosis differently from men? Epidemiological evidence from the Australian National Study of Low Prevalence (Psychotic) Disorders

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 Jan;42(1):74-82. doi: 10.1080/00048670701732699.


Objective: To examine how women differ from men in their expression and experience of psychosis.

Method: Using an epidemiological sampling frame, 1090 cases of psychosis (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, affective psychoses, and other psychoses) were randomly selected from a catchment of 1.1 million people as part of the Australian Study of Low Prevalence (Psychotic) Disorders. Women and men were compared with respect to their premorbid functioning, onset and course of illness, symptomatology, levels of disability and service utilization.

Results: Results within diagnostic groupings confirm differences in how men and women experience and express their illness. Within each diagnostic group, women reported better premorbid functioning, a more benign illness course, lower levels of disability and better integration into the community than men. They were also less likely to have a chronic course of illness. There were no significant differences in age at onset. Differences between women across the diagnostic groups were more pronounced than differences between women and men within a diagnostic group. In particular, women with schizophrenia were severely disabled compared to other women.

Conclusions: These comparisons across diagnostic groupings are among the most systematic and comprehensive in the literature. It is likely that several mechanisms are needed to explain the differences. Greater social integration and functioning in women across diagnostic groups may well reflect culturally and socially determined gender differences. In contrast, variability and attenuated findings with respect to symptom profiles beg the question of biological mechanisms with some degree of specificity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / drug therapy
  • Psychotic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Social Adjustment
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data