Research Article

Schizophrenia sans frontieres: concepts of schizophrenia among French and British psychiatrists.

BMJ 1993; 307 doi: (Published 21 August 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;307:489
  1. J van Os,
  2. P Galdos,
  3. G Lewis,
  4. M Bourgeois,
  5. A Mann
  1. Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To compare the first admission rates for schizophrenia in England and France, and to compare the concept of schizophrenia held by practising British and French psychiatrists. DESIGN--Comparative study of incidence rates in England and France; and postal questionnaire survey of a sample of about 1 in 30 psychiatrists in the United Kingdom and in l'Aquitaine, France. SUBJECTS--All first admissions for schizophrenia to psychiatric hospitals in England and France 1973-82; 92 psychiatrists in the United Kingdom and 69 in France. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Age adjusted first admission rates for schizophrenia between 1973-82; and opinions on the aetiology, diagnosis, and management of schizophrenia. RESULTS--First admission rates were much higher in France than in England before the age of 45, but lower after that age. Rates were falling in England over the 10 year period, while they were rising in France. In the questionnaire study English and French psychiatrists showed prominent differences of opinion for 31 out of 38 statements. The French sample did not diagnose schizophrenia after the age of 45 and endorsed psychoanalytical concepts. CONCLUSIONS--British and French psychiatrists use different diagnostic criteria and contrasting methods of treatment for schizophrenia. Differences in diagnostic criteria probably contribute towards the disparity in administrative incidence rates and time trends for schizophrenia in the two countries. Doctors in the European Community can now work in any country. Further work is needed to ensure psychiatrists are talking a common language.