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The potential of first-episode studies in schizophrenia is maximised through systematic epidemiological, clinical and biological comparisons between homogeneous populations of the psychoses.
To conduct prolonged accrual of ‘all’ cases of non-affective and affective psychotic illness on an epidemiologically complete basis.
Within the region covered by Cavan–Monaghan psychiatric service (population 102 810), all putative cases of first-episode psychosis were diagnosed using DSM–IV.
From 1995 to 2000, 69 cases of psychosis were ascertained, the incidence being 2.3-fold lower in females than in males. On resolving the ‘core’ diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, incidence of schizophrenia among women was 7.5-fold lower than among men whereas incidence of bipolar disorder among women was 6.6-fold lower than among men.
This homogeneous population, which eliminates factors associated with urbanicity and minimises confounding factors such as socioeconomic, ethnic and geographical diversity, shows a markedly reduced incidence among females both of schizophrenia and of bipolar disorder.