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Social relations of people with severe mental illness

Centre for Psychiatry

Funding Body: East London NHS Foundation Trust
Project Investigator: Stefan Priebe


The role of social relations as a source of social support is becoming increasingly important in contemporary society, as a consequence of changes in family structure and of the increased number of people living alone.

It has been widely recognised that having friends provides patients with a mental disorder with emotional and practical support and helps them to cope with life stressors. Relationships with friends may also positively affect physical and mental health by improving health behaviours and help seeking and confer psychological benefits for depression, self-efficacy, self-esteem, coping, and morale.

The aims of this project are:

  • To systematically assess social contacts of people with severe mental illness;
  • To identify patients' characteristics associated with social isolation.

Activities and outputs

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses [1] have been carried out on:

  • The different concepts and methodologies used to define and assess social relations in studies on people with severe mental illness
  • The use of people with psychosis of online social networking tools and c) the social network size and the contacts with friends of people with psychosis.

Based on this reviews of the literature and also taking into account the rapidly changing societal context with the recent spread of online networking [2], we developed a new instrument, the 'Social Contact Assessment (SCA)', in order to comprehensively assess the behavioural, psychological and qualitative aspects of social relations and the social contacts on internet of people with severe mental illness.

The SCA has been piloted in a survey on 100 people with psychotic and mood disorders treated by the East London NHS Foundation Trust.
Future plans are to use the SCA in a large scale survey in different contexts and countries in order to have a representative picture of social relations in people with severe mental illness and of how they are influenced by demographic, socio-economic, cultural and clinical factors.

For further information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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