The results of previous studies of symptom stability in schizophrenia suggest that negative symptoms manifest traitlike characteristics while positive symptoms fluctuate over time. Various prospective studies of chronic schizophrenic patients have found consistent results, regardless of the follow-up period, yet there is little research addressing symptomatology in geriatric schizophrenic patients. Since these patients have a very poor outcome and more severe negative symptoms, their symptoms might differ from younger patients. This study examined the course of symptomatology in 178 geriatric schizophrenic inpatients who were assessed twice at a 1-year interval with the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS). Intraclass correlations revealed that the distribution of negative symptoms was considerably more stable than that of positive symptoms over the interval, and subtypes based on negative symptoms were the only ones that manifested consistent stability over time. There was also a significant increase in negative symptom severity for the sample, with a slight decrease in positive symptom severity. Thus, even in chronic inpatients, with a very extended illness, positive symptom severity is not particularly stable within patients. These data indicate that the characteristics of negative and positive schizophrenic symptoms are similar in younger and geriatric schizophrenic patients, suggesting a continuity of the illness process. Tentative evidence for increasing severity of negative symptoms over a brief follow-up period suggests the possibility of a steady worsening of clinical state in very elderly patients who remained hospitalized.
- Symptom stability