Friday, October 5, 2012

IPS Speakers Remember Groundbreaking Midtown Manhattan Study

"All contemporary studies of social and environmental factors affecting mental health and mental disorders—whether they know it or not—are standing on the shoulders of giants,” said psychiatrist Lewis Opler, M.D., M.P.H. And one of the tallest giants is the landmark “Manhattan Midtown Study."

At APA’s Institute on Psychiatric Services in New York, Opler and colleagues—Ernest Millman, Ph.D., M.P.H., Lawrence Yang, Ph.D., and Mark Opler, Ph.D., M.P.H. (Lewis' son)—outlined the origins, methodology, and findings of a pioneering epidemiologic study, the first volume of whose findings were published 50 years ago this year. Begun in the early 1950s in the wake of World War II and in response to the enormous numbers of men who were rejected for service because of psychiatric disorders, the Manhattan Midtown Study was a longitudinal, community-based survey of what was then the culturally and socioeconomically diverse neighborhood of midtown Manhattan. Undertaken during a period when psychoanalysis was the predominant school of psychiatry, the study was groundbreaking in demonstrating the prevalence of mental health problems in a community sample.

More importantly, its concepts—that social and environmental factors such as poverty, racial and ethnic segregation, and marital and socioeconomic status are crucial determinants of mental health and illness—laid the foundation for what is today a burgeoning field of social and cross-cultural psychiatry. Yang described new research on the social determinants of psychosis in rural China, and the younger Opler outlined emerging research on the association between paternal age (and the increasing social trend toward later and later parenting) and schizophrenia and autism.

“The lessons of the Midtown Manhattan Study, including its founding concepts and findings, are essential to the changes we face in an increasingly urban world where community psychiatry will play an ever greater role in the treatment and prevention of mental illness,” Mark Opler said.

To view a video of Lewis Opler’s comments about the study, click here.


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