Happiness undiminished in FES patients

By Mark Cowen, Senior MedWire Reporter

Results from a Canadian study suggest that patients who have experienced a first episode of schizophrenia (FES) are just as happy as mentally healthy individuals, despite significant functional impairment.

Ofer Agid (University of Toronto) and team say the findings call into question rehabilitation strategies that assume individuals with schizophrenia hold the same drives and goals as before illness onset, and are therefore unhappy with their present functional status.

In a study of 31 remitted FES patients and 29 age- and gender-matched controls, the researchers found that the groups had comparable mean scores on the Subjective Happiness Scale, at 5.16 and 4.80, respectively, out of a possible high score of 7.00 (very happy).

FES patients and controls also had similar mean scores on the Satisfaction with Life Scale, at 24.30 and 22.76, respectively, out of a possible high score of 35 (very satisfied).

However, FES patients had significantly poorer functioning than controls, with mean Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale scores of 49.8 versus 84.0.

The researchers also found that, in FES patients, increased happiness scores were significantly associated with less severe depression, fewer negative symptoms, less social withdrawal, increased life satisfaction, and higher social and occupational functioning.

However, neither cognitive functioning nor measures of insight were significantly associated with happiness in FES patients.

"The finding that patients with FES are at least as happy as controls is surprising, especially since they function at a significantly lower level," comment the researchers in Schizophrenia Research.

They conclude: "This lack of unhappiness, and hence lack of motivation to improve functional status, may contribute substantially to the frequent ineffectiveness of programs for social and vocational rehabilitation."

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