In the past, the comparability of empirical studies that examined the course and outcome of schizophrenia was limited by their use of different diagnostic systems. Focussing on the psychopathological long-term outcome, the present article aims to review follow-up studies that used modern operationalized diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia (DSM-III, DSM-III-R, DSM-IV and ICD-10).
We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, PsycINFO and PSYNDEX for relevant studies up to the year 2011. Twenty-one studies were included in the final analysis.
The long-term outcome of schizophrenia was heterogeneous and included full remissions as well as severe chronic states. Schizophrenia, however, showed a considerably more unfavourable outcome than other diagnostic groups such as schizoaffective or affective disorders. Psychopathological symptoms remained relatively stable in the course of illness. Several predictors for a poor outcome were identified, such as male gender or pronounced negative symptoms.
Recent studies using modern diagnostic systems largely confirm the results of earlier studies. Current diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia identify a heterogeneous sample of patients. The influence of therapeutic interventions on long-term outcome remains unclear.