Lee SC, DelPozo-Banos M, Lloyd K, Jones I, Walters JTR, Owen MJ, O’Donovan M, John A.

Schizophrenia research, (2020) pg 1-11


We investigated whether associations between area deprivation, urbanicity and elevated risk of severe mental illnesses (SMIs, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) is accounted for by social drift or social causation.

We extracted primary and secondary care electronic health records from 2004 to 2015 from a population of 3.9 million. We identified prevalent and incident individuals with SMIs and their level of deprivation and urbanicity using the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) and urban/rural indicator. The presence of social drift was determined by whether odds ratios (ORs) from logistic regression is greater than the incidence rate ratios (IRRs) from Poisson regression. Additionally, we performed longitudinal analysis to measure the proportion of change in deprivation level and rural/urban residence 10 years after an incident diagnosis of SMI and compared it to the general population using standardised rate ratios (SRRs).

Prevalence and incidence of SMIs were significantly associated with deprivation and urbanicity (all ORs and IRRs significantly >1). ORs and IRRs were similar across all conditions and cohorts (ranging from 1.1 to 1.4). Results from the longitudinal analysis showed individuals with SMIs are more likely to move compared to the general population. However, they did not preferentially move to more deprived or urban areas.

There was little evidence of downward social drift over a 10-year period. These findings have implications for the allocation of resources, service configuration and access to services in deprived communities, as well as, for broader public health interventions addressing poverty, and social and environmental contexts.