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Schizophrenia Causes & Risks


The cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Problems with brain structure and chemistry are thought to play a role. There also appears to be a genetic component. People with a parent or sibling with schizophrenia have a 5%-10% chance of developing the disease. This compares to a 1% chance if no relatives have schizophrenia.

Some researchers believe that environmental factors may contribute to the development of schizophrenia. They theorize that a fetal viral infection and/or difficult birth or obstetrical trauma may trigger schizophrenia in people who are predisposed.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Schizophrenia does not develop because of one risk factor. Rather, it develops because of how your genes and environment interact. You may have a gene that increases your chance of schizophrenia, but may or may not develop the disease based on your environment. Environment in this case means any outside factors like stress or infection. Factors that increase your risk of schizophrenia include:

  • Having a parent or sibling with schizophrenia
  • Marijuana use
  • Abnormal brain structure
  • In the northern hemisphere: being born during winter months; being born in the city
  • Infection Oxygen deprivation during pregnancy
  • Maternal depression
  • Issues at birth such as:
    • Long labor
    • Bleeding during pregnancy
    • Prematurity
    • Low birth weight
    • Maternal malnutrition
    • Congenital deafness
    • Infections during pregnancy
  • Loss of a parent during childhood
  • Financial stress

Men typically develop symptoms in their late teens or early twenties, while onset for women tends to occur in their twenties or thirties. In rare cases, it is seen in childhood.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2023 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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