How do feelings during social interactions differ for persons with schizophrenia?

It was previously thought that persons with mental health challenges, such as schizophrenia, experience less happiness relating to social interactions with others. However, current research has begun to question this claim.

How was this study conducted?

20 people with schizophrenia and 15 people without schizophrenia took part in this study. Participants were provided with a smartphone and were asked to complete survey-type responses on the mobile device several times a day — allowing people to report on experiences as they occur in daily life.

Participants were asked to complete the following surveys three times a day:

  • “How [happy/sad/anxious] are you feeling right now?” 
  • “How much are you interacting (i.e., talking) with the people around you?”
  • “How much are you enjoying these interactions?” 
  • “How well you know the person?”
  • “Since the last prompt, how many times did you talk or communicate with someone?”

Participants also answered questions on negative symptoms (e.g., motivation and pleasure), quality of life, and loneliness.

What were the main findings?

Persons with and without schizophrenia did not differ on experiences of happiness, anxiety and sadness. In general, participants reported more happiness than anxiety or sadness across experiences and within social interactions. In terms of social interactions, persons with schizophrenia did not differ on quality of social experiences, e.g., time spent talking with people, enjoyment of the interactions, nor number of interactions, compared to persons without schizophrenia.

Persons with and without schizophrenia did differ on emotions depending on the type of interaction:

  • Intimacy of relationship was associated with sadness across both groups, but happiness only for those without schizophrenia;
  • Involvement in interactions was associated with sadness across both groups, but happiness and anxiety only for those without schizophrenia;
  • Enjoyment during interactions was associated with happiness in both groups.

Finally, persons with schizophrenia were likely to report more happiness within everyday life when they reported less loneliness and higher quality of life.


What new information does this study tell us?

People with schizophrenia and without experience the same level of emotions during social interactions. Yet, only people without schizophrenia experienced increased happiness when the social interaction was with someone they knew well and interacted with more. 

How can we use this study to help facilitate recovery?
    • Clinicians could ask clients to record their emotions throughout the (using mobile apps or diaries) to discuss labeling emotions and the accurate reflection of emotions, during therapy sessions. 
    • Individuals with mental health challenges could track their emotions throughout the day and during social interactions as a basis to label and reflect on the range of emotions, and to foster social motivation to make the social connections.  
    • Family members of individuals with mental health challenges should challenge the assumption that their loved one is not enjoying social interactions and should continue to involve or engage them in interactions.

Mote, J., Gard, D. E., Gonzalez, R., & Fulford, D. (2019). How did that interaction make you feel? The relationship between quality of everyday social experiences and emotion in people with and without schizophrenia. PloS One, 14(9).

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