Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. Common symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and confusion. Patients with schizophrenia often have comorbidities such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. In the sixteen major pharmaceutical markets (16MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and South Korea), GlobalData epidemiologists found that approximately one-third of schizophrenia cases will go undiagnosed by the end of this year.

In the 16MM combined, GlobalData epidemiologists forecast nearly 20.75 million 12-month total prevalent cases of schizophrenia, only 14.23 million of which will be diagnosed by the end of the year. This forecast data demonstrates that around two in every three individuals with schizophrenia get diagnosed by a physician. This is likely primarily driven by the misdiagnosis of schizophrenia, as many symptoms of schizophrenia mimic symptoms of other conditions. These conditions include bipolar disorder, schizoid personality disorder, delusional disorder and schizoaffective disorder. This disease misclassification hinders early diagnosis and treatment and is likely driving the gap between diagnosed and undiagnosed cases of schizophrenia.

According to a recent study published by Ayano and colleagues in the Annals of General Psychiatry, nearly 40% of patients with severe psychiatric disorders (such as schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) were misdiagnosed. These study findings were based on a cross-sectional study of 309 patients randomly selected from an outpatient clinic of Amanuel Mental Specialised Hospital in Ethiopia, the only psychiatric hospital in Ethiopia. In the study, more than half of schizophrenic patients were misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

The accurate and timely identification of schizophrenia cases in the primary care and outpatient settings is critical for improving patient outcomes. Future efforts should prioritise addressing gaps in physician diagnosis and disease classification. Finally, physician training programs should be implemented to increase awareness and accuracy of schizophrenia diagnosis, treatment and management.