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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


HICKLING, Frederick W. The epidemiology of schizophrenia and other common mental health disorders in the English-speaking Caribbean. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.18, n.4-5, pp.256-262. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To report on the epidemiology of schizophrenia and other common mental health disorders in the English-speaking Caribbean. METHODS: The MEDLINE, MEDCARIB and West Indiana electronic databases were searched with the phrases Caribbean AND psychiatry OR mental OR suicide, and items with specific reference to epidemiology were culled and reviewed. RESULTS: The age-corrected incidence rate for schizophrenia per 10 000 is 2.09 in Jamaica, 2.2 per 1000 in Trinidad, and 2.92 in Barbados. These rates are lower than the incidence rates reported for white British people, and significantly lower that the 6- to 18-fold higher risk ratio incidence reported for African Caribbeans living in Britain. A comparative diagnostic study carried out in the United Kingdom (UK) suggests that misdiagnosis plays a significant role in this difference. Relatively low incidence figures for affective disorders, anxiety states, suicide and attempted suicide have been reported for Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados. DISCUSSION: Most published epidemiological studies of Caribbean populations center on schizophrenia, because of the startling findings of a large increase in risk ratios for African Caribbean people living in England compared to the white native British people. The etiological evidence is shifting toward factors of racism and social alienation experienced by black people in the UK, and to misdiagnosis by white British psychiatrists. Studies of the role of colonial enslavement and social engineering raise the etiological possibility of a role for social and structural community organization in the genesis of schizophrenia. The Caribbean thus represents a rich crucible for research in the epidemiology and etiology of mental health disorders.

Keywords : Epidemiology; mental health disorders; English-speaking Caribbean.

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