Age-related differences in formal thought disorder in chronically hospitalized schizophrenic patients: a cross-sectional study across nine decades

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;154(2):205-10. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.2.205.


Objective: This study used a cross-sectional design to examine the frequency of occurrence and severity of 10 different signs of thought disorder in schizophrenic patients across the lifespan.

Method: Schizophrenic patients, who ranged in age from 19 to 96 years (N = 392), were examined with the Scale for Assessment of Thought, Language, and Communication. The cognitive functioning of the geriatric patients (patients over the age of 64, N = 120) was also assessed.

Results: Poverty of speech was more common and more severe in geriatric patients, while four different signs of thought disorder that reflect disconnected speech were less common and less severe in geriatric patients. Analysis of covariance found that the lower severity of disconnection thought disorders in the older patients was not attributable to differences in the amount of speech produced.

Conclusions: Aspects of disconnected speech were less severe in older patients, while the severity and frequency of poverty of speech were greater. These findings suggest that the two previously identified separate dimensions of communication disorder in schizophrenia vary differently with age and possibly in their cognitive and biological underpinnings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Communication Disorders / diagnosis
  • Communication Disorders / epidemiology
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schizophrenia / diagnosis*
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index