Migration

How is migration related to schizophrenia?

The term “migrant” usually refers to first generation migrants; people with a foreign birth place, however some studies also include their locally-born offspring, or second generation migrants. Any association found between migrant status and increased risk of schizophrenia has stimulated a great deal of research and explanatory hypotheses, including the stress relating to migration and settling into a new country, and possible issues with discrimination. Other explanations include a tendency for at-risk individuals to migrate, and differences in underlying genetic vulnerability across cultures.

What is the evidence regarding migration as a risk factor for schizophrenia?

Moderate quality evidence suggests increased rates of schizophrenia in migrants compared to native-born individuals. There is increased incidence of schizophrenia in both first and second generation migrant populations, particularly for migrants from developing countries with high or medium income and for migrants with black skin. There is a large effect of increased risk of schizophrenia in black Caribbean and black African migrants and their descendants in the UK compared to the white British population. Asian migrants in the UK show a medium-sized increased risk of schizophrenia compared to the white British-born population.

Moderate quality evidence suggests small to medium-sized effects of increased incidence of psychotic disorders in refugee groups after migration (up to 10 years) compared to native-born populations and non-refugee migrants. This risk was highest in refugee men and in refugees from the Middle East.

March 2019

Last updated at: 5:04 am, 16th March 2019
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