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Social Isolation and Schizophrenia

People with schizophrenia are often more socially isolated than the general population. This is important, because social isolation and loneliness are known to be health risk factors, and can increase mortality risk. In addition, research has shown that social isolation is related to how well people with schizophrenia function in the community. While people with schizophrenia are more socially isolated than the general population, they often report wanting to have more social connections. In this pilot study, we investigated this disconnect between what people with schizophrenia participants report (wanting more social interactions), with what they are doing in their daily lives.

People with and without schizophrenia were recruited and were asked to carry a study cell phone, with the Avicenna app enabled. Study cell phones were utilized as not all people with schizophrenia own smartphones. In addition to assessing social isolation and the desire for social contact we also were assessing the feasibility of Avicenna, given that people with schizophrenia were often unfamiliar with smartphone app use.

Over seven days participants were prompted with several questions (four times per day) about their desire for social interactions, and the quality of interactions that occurred. In addition, we assessed GPS, Bluetooth, accelerometer, and ambient audio recordings of participant daily life. These data allowed for passive data collection which can help us identify which participants are more socially isolated, and how that data may differ from self-reported social isolation. In this pilot study, participants found the Avicenna app easy to use and non-intrusive to their daily activities. We have begun to analyze the cell phone objective data to identify key differences in our participant groups.

Research Team

David Gard, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
San Francisco State University

Daniel Fulford, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Occupational Therapy
Boston University