, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 481-489

The importance of social comparisons for high levels of subjective quality of life in chronic schizophrenic patients

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In schizophrenic patients, quality of life (QoL) studies often find high levels of general life satisfaction and satisfaction in various life domains despite deprived living conditions. Therefore, the usefulness of QoL as an outcome indicator has been questioned. Since social comparison processes have been postulated to be related to the level of satisfaction, this hypothesis was analysed empirically by the present study in schizophrenic patients. Satisfaction and social comparisons of 148 schizophrenic inpatients and 66 mentally healthy controls were examined with regard to the domains ‘health’ and ‘family’ by means of a standardised interview. The schizophrenic patients had a history of either long-term (n = 75) or short-term (n = 73) restricted and deprived living conditions. Long-term patients showed significantly higher satisfaction levels than short-term patients. They compared themselves predominantly laterally or downwards with fellow inpatients. Significant relationships between the direction of social comparisons and satisfaction ratings were found in all three samples. Social comparisons proved to be important for the level of satisfaction in schizophrenic patients. Results indicate that experiences of restricted and deprived living conditions induce accommodation processes and response-shifts that should be taken into account in the interpretation of quality-of-life data.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.