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.
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.
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.
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.
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