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Trajectories of psychosis: towards a new social biology of schizophrenia*

  • Glynn Harrison (a1)

Abstract

Summary

Over the last 2 decades, discourse on the causes of schizophrenia was conducted almost entirely in terms of biological risk factors. This was probably the result of social trends in the research community, and in popular culture, as a wave of techno-optimism promised answers to big human questions in terms of small pixels and even smaller molecules. The human genome project inflated expectations further, and the pharmaceutical industry conspired with the desire of psychiatrists for scientific respectability. ‘Social factors’, whether at macro-societal or locality/family level, came to be seen as ‘fall-out’ from biological mechanisms, a kind of padding to our understanding of human disease. But changes are in the wind. New understandings of the influence of social factors on the long-term outcome trajectories of psychosis, their potential role in risks associated with migration, and recent findings from genetic high risk studies, are raising fresh questions about social factors and causation. This paper does not argue that the evidence (yet) is strong. But after 2 decades of often crudely articulated dualism, it is time once again for social experience to be integrated with more sophisticated theory development and hypothesis testing in the search for the causes of schizophrenia.

Declaration of Interest

the author has received payments from various pharmaceutical companies to deliver lectures and support travel costs to conferences.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Professor G. Harrison, Division of Psychiatry, Cotham House, Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6JL (United Kingdom). E-mail: G.Hatrison@bristol.ac.uk

Footnotes

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*

Paper presented at the VI National Congress of the Italian Society of Psychiatric Epidemiology (SIEP), held in Sirmione (BS), 6-8 November 2003.

Footnotes

References

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Trajectories of psychosis: towards a new social biology of schizophrenia*

  • Glynn Harrison (a1)

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