Gender differences in premorbid, entry, treatment, and outcome characteristics in a treated epidemiological sample of 661 patients with first episode psychosis

S M Cotton, M Lambert, B G Schimmelmann, D L Foley, K I Morley, P D McGorry, P Conus
Schizophrenia Research 2009, 114 (1-3): 17-24

OBJECTIVES: Gender differences in psychotic disorder have been observed in terms of illness onset and course; however, past research has been limited by inconsistencies between studies and the lack of epidemiological representative of samples assessed. Thus, the aim of this study was to elucidate gender differences in a treated epidemiological sample of patients with first episode psychosis (FEP).

METHODS: A medical file audit was used to collect data on premorbid, entry, treatment and 18-month outcome characteristics of 661 FEP consecutive patients treated at the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC), Melbourne, Australia.

RESULTS: Prior to onset of psychosis, females were more likely to have a history of suicide attempts (p=.011) and depression (p=.001). At service entry, females were more likely to have depressive symptoms (p=.007). Conversely, males had marked substance use problems that were evident prior to admission (p<.001) and persisted through treatment (p<.001). At service entry, males also experienced more severe psychopathology (p<.001) and lower levels of functioning (GAF, p=.008; unemployment/not studying p=.004; living with family, p=.003). Treatment non-compliance (p<.001) and frequent hospitalisations (p=.047) were also common for males with FEP. At service discharge males had significantly lower levels of functioning (GAF, p=.008; unemployment/not studying p=.040; living with family, p=.001) compared to females with FEP.

CONCLUSIONS: Gender differences are evident in illness course of patients with FEP, particularly with respect to past history of psychopathology and functioning at presentation and at service discharge. Strategies to deal with these gender differences need to be considered in early intervention programs.

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