Translating the epidemiology of psychosis into public mental health: evidence, challenges and future prospects

J Public Ment Health. 2010 Jun;9(2):4-14. doi: 10.5042/jpmh.2010.0324.


Genetic and environmental factors are associated with psychosis risk, but the latter present more tangible markers for prevention. We conducted a theoretical exercise to estimate the proportion of psychotic illnesses that could be prevented if we could identify and remove all factors that lead to increased incidence associated with ethnic minority status and urbanicity. Measures of impact by population density and ethnicity were estimated from incidence rate ratios [IRR] obtained from two methodologically-similar first episode psychosis studies in four UK centres. Multilevel Poisson regression was used to estimate IRR, controlling for confounders. Population attributable risk fractions [PAR] were estimated for our study population and the population of England. We considered three outcomes; all clinically relevant ICD-10 psychotic illnesses [F10-39], non-affective psychoses [F20-29] and affective psychoses [F30-39]. One thousand and twenty-nine subjects, aged 18-64, were identified over 2.4 million person-years. Up to 22% of all psychoses in England (46.9% within our study areas) could be prevented if exposures associated with increased incidence in ethnic minority populations could be removed; this is equivalent to 66.9% within ethnic minority groups themselves. For non-affective psychoses only, PAR for population density was large and significant (27.5%); joint PAR with ethnicity was 61.7%. Effect sizes for common socio-environmental risk indicators for psychosis are large; inequalities were marked. This analysis demonstrates potential importance in another light: we need to move beyond current epidemiological approaches to elucidate exact socio-environmental factors that underpin urbanicity and ethnic minority status as markers of increased risk by incorporating gene-environment interactions that adopt a multi disciplinary perspective.