BACKGROUND The analysis of the costs of schizophrenia and its treatment under different mental health care structures will facilitate the improved allocation of the limited resources available for the treatment of schizophrenia. The research we present compares health service use and total health care costs of three cohorts of subjects with schizophrenia which are representative of three areas of Spain (Burlada in Navarra, Cantabria and the Eixample of Barcelona).
METHOD We selected first-time contacts with any psychiatric service who received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Subjects were evaluated in the third year after onset.
RESULTS The mean number of out-patient visits per patient per year was 10.7 and the mean in-patient days were 9.5. The mean direct cost per patient in the third year of treatment was US$2243. Costs were higher for single subjects and for people who had a relapse. Costs of subjects with better functioning were lower than costs of subjects with a worse state.
CONCLUSIONS Direct costs of care in Spain were lower than the reported figures from other western European countries. Costs were greater in the two centres with greater community mental health service development. Some of the findings may be explained by service availability.