Background Cognitive impairments in childhood are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia in later life, but the extent to which poor academic achievement is associated with the disorder is unclear.Methods Major databases were searched for articles published in English up to 31 December 2019. We conducted random-effects meta-analyses to: (1) compare general academic and mathematics achievement in youth who later developed schizophrenia and those who did not; (2) to examine the association between education level achieved and adult-onset schizophrenia; and, (3) compare general academic achievement in youth at-risk for schizophrenia and typically developing peers. Meta-regression models examined the effects of type of academic assessment, educational system, age at assessment, measurement of educational level attained, school leaving age, and study quality on academic achievement and education level among individuals with schizophrenia.Results Meta-analyses, comprising data of over four million individuals, found that: (1) by age 16 years, those who later developed schizophrenia had poorer general academic (Cohen's d = -0.29, p ≤ 0.0001) and mathematics achievement (d = -0.23, p = 0.01) than those who did not; (2) individuals with schizophrenia were less likely to enter higher education (odds ratio = 0.49, p ≤ 0.0001); and, (3) youth reporting psychotic-like experiences and youth with a family history of schizophrenia had lower general academic achievement (d = -0.54, p ≤ 0.0001; d = -0.39, p ≤ 0.0001, respectively). Meta-regression analyses determined no effect modifiers.Discussion Despite significant heterogeneity across studies, various routinely collected indices of academic achievement can identify premorbid cognitive dysfunction among individuals who are vulnerable for schizophrenia, potentially aiding the early identification of risk in the population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1949-1965
Number of pages17
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number12
Early online date20 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


  • Academic attainment
  • adolescence
  • childhood
  • cognition
  • psychosis
  • scholastic achievement


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