Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders in Later Life: Prevalence and Distribution of Age at Onset and Sex in a Dutch Catchment Area

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The prevalence of schizophrenia in later life is affected by both outflow of early onset patients, due to recovery and excess mortality, and inflow of patients with a later age at onset, making it likely that characteristics of older patients differ markedly from younger patients. We assessed the prevalence of schizophrenia and spectrum disorders and their distribution according to age at onset and sex in an elderly population.


Case register study.

Setting and Participants:

All patients age 60 years and older, in contact with the Mental Health Organization in a psychiatric catchment area in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or delusional disorder.


One-year prevalence estimates, including rates according to age group, age at onset, and sex. In addition, we determined the effect of using different criteria for age at onset.


The one-year prevalence of all disorders was 0.71%, subdivided in 0.55% for schizophrenia, 0.14% for schizoaffective disorder, and 0.03% for delusional disorder. The one-year prevalence of early-onset schizophrenia was 0.35%, of late-onset schizophrenia 0.14%, and of very-late-onset schizophrenia-like psychosis 0.05%. Variation of onset criterion affected the proportion of early-onset versus late-onset schizophrenia patients stronger in women than in men. Women outnumbered men markedly in the prevalence estimates for most diagnostic subgroups, including early-onset schizophrenia.


We found the prevalence of schizophrenia among older persons to be well within the range reported for younger populations. The considerable proportion with a later age at onset and the strong female preponderance are distinguishing characteristics of older patients with clinical implications.

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