Urban Babies More Likely to be Schizophrenic

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Mental illness is as ubiquitous in this city as Starbucks. With nearly a third of the homeless population suffering from a mental disorder, we are constantly encountering troubled minds. Yet familiarity with the symptoms brings us no closer to understanding the cause. That old man yelling at the sidewalk is crazy, sur—but why?

A growing body of research suggests that [environmental factors] may have more to do with it than we thought. For instance, a baby born in the city is roughly 50 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia, possibly because of heightened exposure to infections. Babies born in winter and spring, when the general population is more likely to be sick, are also at greater risk.  

As science advances, some generally held assumptions are giving way. Scientists used to think dysfunctional families were a key risk factor for schizophrenia, but now it seems that while dysfunctional families exacerbate the disease, they probably don’t trigger it.

“If environmental risk factors for [mental illness] can be validated and confirmed,” says Alan Brown of the Columbia University Medical Center, “There is every reason to expect they will point to preventative measures that lower their risks and morbidity.”

Photo courtesy of [{amanda} on Flickr.]

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