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

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-781
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number8
Early online date25 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • relationship satisfaction
  • schizophrenia
  • Severe mental illness
  • social isolation
  • social network


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