Background:
Research suggests that patients with a severe mental illness (SMI) are among the most social excluded in society. However, comparisons of social network composition and relationship satisfaction between SMI patients and a control group are rare.

Aims:
Our aim was to compare differences in size, satisfaction and composition of the social network between patients with SMI and a control group. Potential sociodemographic and clinical risk factors in relation to social network size in SMI patients were explored.

Methods:
The sample consisted of a control group (N = 949) and SMI patients (N = 211) who were under treatment in Dutch mental health care institutions. In these groups, network size, relationship satisfaction, sociodemographic and clinical (patients only) characteristics were assessed.

Results:
Social network size was 2.5 times lower in SMI patients, which was also reflected in a lower relationship satisfaction. The composition of the social network of SMI patients differs from that of controls: patients’ network seems to consist of a smaller part of friends. Different risk factors were associated with the impoverishment of the social network of family, friends and acquaintances of patients with SMI.

Conclusion:
SMI patients have very small networks compared to controls. This may be a problem, given the ongoing emphasis on outpatient treatment of SMI patients and self-dependence. This outcome advocates for more attention to social isolation of SMI patients and involvement of family in the treatment and aftercare of SMI patients.

Jitske F Koenders, Liselotte D de Mooij, Jack M Dekker, Martijn Kikkert

International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Vol 63, Issue 8, 2017

DOI

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Social inclusion and relationship satisfaction of patients with a severe mental illness [2017]