Beliefs About the Causes of Schizophrenia Among Aymara and Non-Aymara Patients and Their Primary Caregivers in the Central-Southern Andes

Published in: International Journal of Social Psychiatry, v. 61, no. 1, Feb. 2015, p. 82-91

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Alejandra Caqueo-Urízar, Joshua Breslau, Stephen E. Gilman

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AIM: The aim of this study is to investigate differences in the beliefs about the causes of schizophrenia between Aymara and non-Aymara patients with schizophrenia and their primary caregivers. Ethnic background plays an important role in the formation of beliefs regarding the causes of schizophrenia, and there have been no prior studies on such beliefs among the Aymara, an indigenous community with a population of about 2 million people living in the Andes. We focused on three systems of beliefs distinguished in the literature: biological, psychosocial and magical–religious. METHODS: The sample comprised 253 patients (n = 117 Aymara, and n  = 136 non-Aymara) of public mental health centers in Chile (33.6%), Peru (33.6%) and Bolivia (32.8%) with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and each patient's primary caregiver. We administered to patients and caregivers a questionnaire with scales assessing the perceived causes of schizophrenia. Linear regression models were fitted to compare differences in the levels of causal beliefs between Aymara and non-Aymara patients and caregivers, and to identify socio-demographic and clinical predictors of different types of beliefs about the causes of schizophrenia. RESULTS: Adjusted for socio-demographic and clinical covariates, levels of psychosocial beliefs were significantly higher for Aymara caregivers (0.33, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.05, 0.62) than non-Aymara caregivers. CONCLUSIONS: Contrary to expectations, beliefs about the causes of schizophrenia among Aymara are not more magical–religious than those of their non-Aymara counterparts. It may be necessary for mental health staff members to evaluate beliefs about the disorder, especially in ethnic minorities, before applying a standard model of treatment.

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