Social attachment is a biological and affective need. When this need is not met, people experience loneliness. Loneliness is associated with impaired social cognition, and is a risk factor for broad based morbidity across the adult lifespan even after controlling for multiple factors. However, little is known about loneliness in schizophrenia. Eighty-seven non-depressed individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder (including 51 inpatients) and 58 control subjects completed the revised UCLA Loneliness scale. Social cognition was assessed with a self-report questionnaire and a performance-based task. Social trait perception was assessed with a facial task. Comorbid medical diagnoses were available for all inpatients. Patients reported greater loneliness levels than controls, while in- and out-patients did not significantly differ. In patients, loneliness was associated with self-report measures of social cognition. Patients' loneliness scores predicted a diagnosis of drug abuse/dependence, number of drugs used, hypertension and abnormal hemoglobin A1c levels. Patients experienced higher levels of loneliness than controls, independently of their objective social isolation. Loneliness did not rely on the same psychological processes in patients than in controls. Loneliness in schizophrenia is a symptom that deserves more scrutiny, particularly as it relates to the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome in this population.
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