Despite Perceptions, Schizophrenia Does Not Prevent Happiness

Although mental illness is widely perceived as a detriment to one's quality of life, recent findings claim schizophrenia does not necessarily forego happiness.

Although mental illness is widely perceived as a detriment to one’s quality of life, findings published in Schizophrenia Research claimed schizophrenia does not necessarily forego happiness.

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers conducted surveys that delved into the happiness of 72 outpatients with non-remitted chronic schizophrenia and 64 healthy comparison subjects (HCs). Amongst schizophrenia patients, 63 were on antipsychotic medications and 59% were residing in assisted living.

For the survey, questions such as “I was happy” and “I enjoyed life” were answered with a scale ranging from “never or rarely” to “all or most of the time.”

Compared to 83% of HCs who claimed they were happy all or most of the time, schizophrenia patients reported lower mean rates of happiness. However, the authors reported “substantial heterogeneity within the schizophrenia group,” with 37% claiming they were happy all or most of the time.

“Level of happiness in persons with schizophrenia was significantly correlated with higher mental health-related quality of life, and several positive psychosocial factors (lower perceived stress, and higher levels of resilience, optimism, and personal mastery),” the writers noted.

Furthermore, a patient’s duration of illness, sociodemographic makeup, severity of both positive and negative symptoms, cognitive capabilities, physical state, and medical comorbidity were not related with their overall level of happiness.

“Except for an absence of an association with resilience, the pattern of correlations of happiness with other variables seen among HCs was similar to that in individuals with schizophrenia,” the researchers found.

However, 15% of schizophrenia subjects admitted they were rarely or never happy. In comparison, no HCs reported that level of happiness, the release pointed out.

While the researchers asserted mental illness may create an obstacle to happiness, they claimed a schizophrenia diagnosis does not foreshadow a lifetime of despair.

Concluding their study, the investigators suggested improving schizophrenia patients’ resilience, optimism, and personal mastery could provide worthwhile treatment.

"Without discounting the suffering this disease inflicts on people, our study shows that happiness is an attainable goal for at least some schizophrenia patients," senior author Dilip Jeste, MD, who is also the Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging and director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UCSD, said in a statement. "This means we can help make these individuals' lives happier."