|Social isolation is linked to high levels of morbidity and mortality
in the general population [1,2]. The strength of this association is
comparable to that of established risk factors such as hypertension,
obesity and smoking . Having friends provides emotional and
practical support and helps people to cope with life stressors .
Relationships with friends may also positively affect physical and
mental health by improving health behaviours and increasing selfefficacy,
self-esteem and morale [2,4]. The role of friends as a source
of social support is becoming increasingly important in contemporary
society [5,6], as a consequence of changes in family structure and of the
increased number of people living alone .
|People with affective disorders are likely to be at high risk for social
isolation . Depressive and anxiety symptoms may reduce patients’
motivation to engage in social relationships and activities . On the
other hand, high levels of excitement and activation, as observed in
mania, may make patients appear unpredictable and dangerous so that
others avoid establishing contact and relationships with them [10,11].
|Several research studies have addressed the social functioning
of patients with major mental disorders, including mood disorders.
However, their findings are difficult to compare because of the different
definitions of the key concepts (i.e. “social networks”, “social contacts”
and “social relationship”) and the different methodologies adopted.
|There is a need for further research in the area in order to overcome
the heterogeneity of the conceptualisations as well as of the assessment
tools. Future studies should use comprehensive measures to assess both
objective (quantitative) and subjective (qualitative) characteristics of
the social relations of people with mood disorders. This would allow
us to better understand the social needs of these patients and how these
needs vary in different phases of mood disorders. New research should
also take into account the significant changes in social relationships
following the advent of online social networking .
|This research evidence should guide the development of mental health care strategies to reduce the risk of social isolation in people with
mood disorders. This seems key to improve their mental and physical
health outcomes and their quality of life.
- Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC (2003) Social isolation and health, with an emphasis on underlying mechanisms. Perspect Biol Med 46: S39-52.
- Jorm AF (2005) Social networks and health: it's time for an intervention trial. J Epidemiol Community Health 59: 537-538.
- Pantell M, Rehkopf D, Jutte D, Syme SL, Balmes J, et al. (2013) Social Isolation: A Predictor of Mortality Comparable to Traditional Clinical Risk Factors. Am J Public Health.
- Sias PM, Bartoo H (2007) Friendship, social support, and health. In: L’Abate L editor. Low-cost approaches to promote physical and mental health. Springer 526.
- Verhaeghe PP, Tampubolon G (2012) Individual social capital, neighbourhood deprivation, and self-rated health in England. Soc Sci Med 75: 349-357.
- Holwerda TJ, Beekman AT, Deeg DJ, Stek ML, van Tilburg TG, et al. (2012) Increased risk of mortality associated with social isolation in older men: only when feeling lonely? Results from the Amsterdam Study of the Elderly (AMSTEL). Psychol Med 42: 843-853.
- Office for National Statistics (2012) Families and households, 2001 to 2011.
- Hansen CF, Torgalsbøen AK, Røssberg JI, Romm KL, Andreassen OA, et al. (2013) Object relations, reality testing, and social withdrawal in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. J Nerv Ment Dis 201: 222-225.
- Seidel EM, Habel U, Finkelmeyer A, Schneider F, Gur RC, et al. (2010) Implicit and explicit behavioral tendencies in male and female depression. Psychiatry Res 177: 124-130.
- Savoja V, Sani G, Kotzalidis GD, De Rossi P, Stefani S, et al. (2011) Bipolar disorder presenting as stalking--a case report. Psychiatr Danub 23: 69-72.
- Meloy JR (2002) Stalking and psychosexual obsession: Psychological perspectives for prevention, policing, and treatment, wiley publishing company, Germany.
- Bauer R, Bauer M, Spiessl H, Kagerbauer T (2013) Cyber-support: an analysis of online self-help forums (online self-help forums in bipolar disorder). Nord J Psychiatry 67: 185-190.