Exposure to Political Violence in Northern Ireland and Outcome of First Episode Psychosis

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The impact of political violence on individuals presenting with an episode of first episode psychosis has not been examined. Individuals were assessed for exposure to political violence in Northern Ireland (the “Troubles”) by asking for a response to 2 questions: one asked about the impact of violence “on your area”; the second about the impact of violence “on you or your family’s life.” The participants were separated into 2 groups (high and low impact) for each question. Symptom profiles and rates of substance misuse were compared across the groups at baseline and at 3-year follow up. Of the 178 individuals included in the study 66 (37.1%) reported a high impact of the “Troubles” on their life and 81 (45.5%) a high impact of the “Troubles” on their area. There were no significant differences in symptom profile or rates of substance misuse between high and low groups at presentation. At 3-year follow-up high impact of the “Troubles” on life was associated with higher Positive and Negative Symptom Scale (PANSS) Total (P = .01), PANSS-Positive (P < .05), and PANSS-General (P < .01) scores and lower global assessment of functioning disability (P < .05) scores, after adjusting for confounding factors. Impact of the “Troubles” on area was not associated with differences in symptom outcomes. This finding adds to the evidence that outcomes in psychosis are significantly impacted by environmental factors and suggests that greater attention should be paid to therapeutic strategies designed to address the impact of trauma.

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