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Benefits of Social Contact in Individuals With Psychotic Symptoms: Do Closeness of the Contact and Empathic Skills Make the Difference?

Krijnen, L. J. G., Lemmers-Jansen, I. L. J., Fett, A-K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0282-273X and Krabbendam, L. (2021). Benefits of Social Contact in Individuals With Psychotic Symptoms: Do Closeness of the Contact and Empathic Skills Make the Difference?. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 769091. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.769091


Objectives: Social contact is known to be beneficial for humans’ mental health. Individuals with psychotic symptoms (PS) tend to show poorer social and interpersonal functioning. However, in this patient population, social contact may be crucial for their mental wellbeing and treatment success. Additionally, closeness of social contact (familiar versus less familiar others), rather than only the presence or absence of social contacts, may play an important role. Empathy may heighten the beneficial effects of social/close contact on mental health, facilitating interactions. We investigated the association between social contact and closeness of contact on mental health, defined as positive symptoms, positive affect and negative affect in PS and control participants, with empathy as a moderator.

Methods: Participants were 16–30 years old. Information regarding social/close contact and mental health was obtained using the experience sampling method in individuals with PS (n = 29) and healthy controls (n = 28). Empathy was measured using a self-report questionnaire.

Results: Social contact was associated with higher positive affect in the total sample. Contact with close as opposed to less close others was related to better mental health: It was associated with lower positive symptoms in the PS group, and with more positive affect in the total sample. Empathy moderated the association between closeness of contact and positive affect in the total sample, in which the combination of higher levels of empathy combined with the presence of close contact was associated with higher positive affect in the total sample. However, the direct association between empathy and positive affect was not significant per group of contact.

Conclusion: The results suggest that social contact, but especially contact with a close other is important for mental health outcomes: Contact with close others is beneficial for positive affect in the total sample and for positive symptoms in individuals with PS.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright © 2021 Krijnen, Lemmers-Jansen, Fett and Krabbendam. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: first episode psychosis (FEP), clinical high risk (CHR) for psychosis, social contact, close contact, positive psychotic symptoms, positive and negative affect, experience sampling method (ESM)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
Project Input:
Project IDFunder NameFunder ID
KS2011(1)-75Hersenstichting Nederland
648082ERC ConsolidatorUNSPECIFIED
Date available in CRO: 16 Dec 2021 15:52
Date deposited: 16 December 2021
Date of acceptance: 25 November 2021
Date of first online publication: 16 December 2021
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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