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Factors Differentiating Childhood-Onset and Adolescent-Onset Schizophrenia: A Claims Database Study

Jeanette M. Jerrell, PhD, and Roger S. McIntyre, MD

Published: March 3, 2016

Article Abstract

Background: The greater severity and burden of illness in individuals with early onset schizophrenia (ie, before age 18 years) deserves further investigation, specifically regarding its prevalence in community-based treatment and its association with other psychiatric or medical conditions.

Method: A retrospective cohort design was employed using the South Carolina Medicaid claims database covering outpatient and inpatient medical services from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 2013, to identify patients aged 17 years with a diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorders (ICD-9-CM). Logistic regression was used to examine the factors differentiating childhood- versus adolescent-onset schizophrenia in a community-based system of care.

Results: Early onset schizophrenia was diagnosed in 613 child and adolescent cases during the study epoch or 0.2% of this population-based cohort. The early onset cohort was primarily male (64%) and black (48%). The mean length of time followed in the Medicaid dataset was 12.6 years. Within the early onset cohort, 22.5% were diagnosed at age 12 years and 77.5% were diagnosed as adolescents. The childhood-onset subgroup was twice as likely to have speech, language, or educational disabilities and an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis but significantly less likely to have schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, an organic brain disorder or mental retardation/intellectual disability, or a substance use disorder (adjusted OR = 2.01, 2.26, 0.38, 0.31, 0.47, and 0.32, respectively) compared to the adolescent-onset subgroup.

Conclusion: Primary care providers should identify and maintain surveillance of cases of pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders, which appear to be highly comorbid and genetically related, and refer them early and promptly for specialized treatment.

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