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A 4-Fold Risk of Metabolic Syndrome in Patients With Schizophrenia: The Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(5):559-563

Objective: Schizophrenia is associated with a shortened life expectancy and increased somatic comorbidity with, e.g., cardiovascular disorders. One major risk factor for these disorders is the metabolic syndrome, which has been reported to have a higher frequency in schizophrenic patients. Our objective was to study the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in a population-based birth cohort.

Method: The study sample consisted of 5613 members of the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort who participated in the field study from 1997 to 1998. Subjects were divided into 4 diagnostic categories (DSM-III-R): (1) schizophrenia (N = 31), (2) other functional psychoses (N = 22), (3) nonpsychotic disorders (N = 105), and (4) no psychiatric hospital treatment (N = 5455, comparison group). Subjects were assessed for the presence of metabolic syndrome according to the criteria of the National Cholesterol Education Program.

Results: The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was higher in subjects with schizophrenia compared with the comparison group (19% vs. 6%, p = .010). The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in subjects with other psychoses was 5%. After controlling for sex, the results of logistic regression analysis showed that the risk of metabolic syndrome in schizophrenia was 3.7 (95% CI = 1.5 to 9.0).

Conclusions: The high prevalence of metabolic syndrome in schizophrenia even at such a relatively young age underscores the need to select antipsychotic medications with no or little capability to induce metabolic side effects. Also, developing comprehensive efforts directed at controlling weight and diet and improving physical activity are needed.