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Prevalence of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and metabolic abnormalities in schizophrenia over the course of the illness: a cross-sectional study

M De Hert1*, R van Winkel1, D Van Eyck1, L Hanssens2, M Wampers1, A Scheen3 and J Peuskens1

Author Affiliations

1 University Psychiatric Center Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuvense Steenweg 517, 3070 Kortenberg, Belgium

2 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University Liege, Belgium

3 Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, CHU Sart Tilman, University Liege, Belgium

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Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health 2006, 2:14  doi:10.1186/1745-0179-2-14

Published: 27 June 2006



Patients with schizophrenia are at high risk of developing metabolic abnormalities.


A prospective study focusing on metabolic disturbances in patients with schizophrenia, including an oral glucose tolerance test, is currently ongoing at our University Hospital and affiliate services. The prevalence of metabolic abnormalities at baseline was assessed in a cohort of 415 patients with schizophrenia. The sample was divided into 4 groups according to duration of illness: first-episode patients (<1.5 years), recent-onset patients (between 1.5 and 10 years), subchronic patients (between 10 and 20 years) and chronic patients (>20 years).


Metabolic abnormalities were already present in first-episode patients, and considerably increased with increasing duration of illness. When compared to the general population matched for age and gender, much higher rates of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) and diabetes were observed for patients with schizophrenia. For MetS, the increase over time was similar to that of the general population. In contrast, the difference in the prevalence of diabetes in patients with schizophrenia and the general population dramatically and linearly increased from 1.6% in the 15–25 age-band to 19.2% in the 55–65 age-band.


Thus, the current data suggest that on the one hand metabolic abnormalities are an inherent part of schizophrenic illness, as they are already present in first-episode patients. On the other hand, however, our results suggest a direct effect of the illness and/or antipsychotic medication on their occurence. The data underscore the need for screening for metabolic abnormalities in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, already starting from the onset of the illness.