Urbanicity and rates of untreated psychotic disorders in three diverse settings in the Global South

Psychol Med. 2023 Jan 16;1-9. doi: 10.1017/S0033291722003749. Online ahead of print.


Background: Extensive evidence indicates that rates of psychotic disorder are elevated in more urban compared with less urban areas, but this evidence largely originates from Northern Europe. It is unclear whether the same association holds globally. This study examined the association between urban residence and rates of psychotic disorder in catchment areas in India (Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu), Nigeria (Ibadan, Oyo), and Northern Trinidad.

Methods: Comprehensive case detection systems were developed based on extensive pilot work to identify individuals aged 18-64 with previously untreated psychotic disorders residing in each catchment area (May 2018-April/May/July 2020). Area of residence and basic demographic details were collected for eligible cases. We compared rates of psychotic disorder in the more v. less urban administrative areas within each catchment area, based on all cases detected, and repeated these analyses while restricting to recent onset cases (<2 years/<5 years).

Results: We found evidence of higher overall rates of psychosis in more urban areas within the Trinidadian catchment area (IRR: 3.24, 95% CI 2.68-3.91), an inverse association in the Nigerian catchment area (IRR: 0.68, 95% CI 0.51-0.91) and no association in the Indian catchment area (IRR: 1.18, 95% CI 0.93-1.52). When restricting to recent onset cases, we found a modest positive association in the Indian catchment area.

Conclusions: This study suggests that urbanicity is associated with higher rates of psychotic disorder in some but not all contexts outside of Northern Europe. Future studies should test candidate mechanisms that may underlie the associations observed, such as exposure to violence.

Keywords: Epidemiology; global mental health; incidence; psychosis; schizophrenia; urbanicity.