Schizophrenia, which affects about two million Americans, takes an enormous toll on society. Because it tends to arise in young adulthood and persist, it rings up a huge tally in health care bills and lost wages and ranks among the costliest illnesses in the U.S.
Treatment and strong social support enable some individuals to lead relatively productive and satisfying lives, but most are not so lucky. Fewer than a third can hold a job, and half of those do so only because they have intensive assistance. Men (who tend to become symptomatic earlier than women) usually do not marry, and women who tie the knot frequently enter into marriages that do not last. Because individuals with schizophrenia often isolate themselves and lack jobs, they constitute a disproportionate share of the chronically homeless population.