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November 1996

Lifetime Prevalence, Demographic Risk Factors, and Diagnostic Validity of Nonaffective Psychosis as Assessed in a US Community Sample: The National Comorbidity Survey

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics, Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va (Dr Kendler); the Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Mo (Dr Gallagher); and the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ms Abelson and Dr Kessler).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996;53(11):1022-1031. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1996.01830110060007

Background:  We seek to estimate lifetime prevalence and demographic correlates of nonaffective psychosis in the US population assessed by a computer-analyzed structured interview and a senior clinician.

Methods:  In the National Comorbidity Survey, a probability subsample of 5877 respondents were administered a screen for psychotic symptoms. Based on the response to this screening, detailed follow-up interviews were conducted by mental health professionals (n=454). The initial screen and clinical reinterview were reviewed by a senior clinician. Results are presented for narrowly (schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder) and broadly (all nonaffective psychoses) defined psychotic illness.

Results:  One or more psychosis screening questions were endorsed by 28.4% of individuals. By computer algorithm, lifetime prevalences of narrowly and broadly defined psychotic illness were 1.3% and 2.2%, respectively. Of those assigned a narrow diagnosis by the computer, the senior clinician assigned narrow and broad diagnoses to 10% and 37%, respectively. By clinician diagnosis, lifetime prevalence rates of narrowly and broadly defined psychosis were 0.2% and 0.7%, respectively. A clinician diagnosis of nonaffective psychosis was significantly associated with low income; unemployment; a marital status of single, divorced, or separated; and urban residence. Clinician confirmation of a computer diagnosis was predicted by hospitalization, neuroleptic treatment, duration of illness, enduring impairment, and thought disorder.

Conclusions:  Lifetime prevalence estimates of psychosis in community samples are strongly influenced by methods of assessment and diagnosis. Although results using computer algorithms were similar in the National Comorbidity Survey and Epidemiologic Catchment Area studies, diagnoses so obtained agreed poorly with clinical diagnoses. Accurate assessment of psychotic illness in epidemiologic samples may require collection of extensive contextual information for clinician review.

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