A study has been made of the distribution of 3,304 cases of mental disorder in Bristol. These were psychiatric cases admitted to mental hospitals or nursing homes during a five-year period, 1949–1953. The inception rate of different diagnostic categories in each of the city wards and in three groups of wards has been determined and correlated with three indices of social and economic level.
The distribution of schizophrenia departed very significantly from random, with high rates in the central wards. The distribution of manic-depressive psychosis, of neurosis and of senile dementia did not depart significantly from random.
There is a marked association between schizophrenia rates and the number of people living alone; high schizophrenia rates occurred in areas of both high and low population density and of high and low mean rateable value.
Rates for manic-depressive psychosis and for neurosis show a slight association with mean rateable value. Rates for senile dementia show no appreciable association with any of the three social indices.
The possible explanations of these results are considered and it is concluded that the observed distribution of schizophrenia can be explained by the hypothesis that there is a segregation in certain areas of persons liable to schizophrenia or by the hypothesis that social isolation is a causal factor.