Do African Americans Suffer More Schizophrenia, or is Bias to Blame?

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Statistically, African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than white Americans. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry asserts that psychiatric bias and diagnostic standards may be to blame.

In the study, researchers found that African American participants were diagnosed with schizophrenia more than two and half times as often as white participants. Even when the psychiatrists evaluating the participants were given reports without any indication of race, they tended to notice the severity of the African American patients’ psychotic symptoms. The authors noted, "In African American subjects, psychotic symptoms may be overvalued by clinicians, skewing diagnoses toward schizophrenia-spectrum conditions."

In its concluding remarks, the authors of the study urge mental health practitioners "to consistently challenge their own diagnostic assessments" when treating individuals from racial groups other than their own.  We urge family caregivers to be vigilant in seeking proper diagnosis for their family members.  By tracking moods, behaviors and treatment progress, caregivers will have the supporting data necessary to help clincians discover the underlying cause of a loved one's mental condition. 

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