Interplay Among Psychopathologic Variables, Personal Resources, Context-Related Factors, and Real-life Functioning in Individuals With Schizophrenia: A Network Analysis

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Abstract

Importance

Enhanced understanding of factors associated with symptomatic and functional recovery is instrumental to designing personalized treatment plans for people with schizophrenia. To date, this is the first study using network analysis to investigate the associations among cognitive, psychopathologic, and psychosocial variables in a large sample of community-dwelling individuals with schizophrenia.

Objective

To assess the interplay among psychopathologic variables, cognitive dysfunctions, functional capacity, personal resources, perceived stigma, and real-life functioning in individuals with schizophrenia, using a data-driven approach.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This multicenter, cross-sectional study involved 26 university psychiatric clinics and/or mental health departments. A total of 921 community-dwelling individuals with a DSM-IV diagnosis of schizophrenia who were stabilized on antipsychotic treatment were recruited from those consecutively presenting to the outpatient units of the sites between March 1, 2012, and September 30, 2013. Statistical analysis was conducted between July 1 and September 30, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Measures covered psychopathologic variables, neurocognition, social cognition, functional capacity, real-life functioning, resilience, perceived stigma, incentives, and service engagement.

Results

Of 740 patients (221 women and 519 men; mean [SD] age, 40.0 [10.9] years) with complete data on the 27 study measures, 163 (22.0%) were remitted (with a score of mild or better on 8 core symptoms). The network analysis showed that functional capacity and everyday life skills were the most central and highly interconnected nodes in the network. Psychopathologic variables split in 2 domains, with positive symptoms being one of the most peripheral and least connected nodes. Functional capacity bridged cognition with everyday life skills; the everyday life skills node was connected to disorganization and expressive deficits. Interpersonal relationships and work skills were connected to avolition; the interpersonal relationships node was also linked to social competence, and the work skills node was linked to social incentives and engagement with mental health services. A case-dropping bootstrap procedure showed centrality indices correlations of 0.75 or greater between the original and randomly defined samples up to 481 of 740 case-dropping (65.0%). No difference in the network structure was found between men and women.

Conclusions and Relevance

The high centrality of functional capacity and everyday life skills in the network suggests that improving the ability to perform tasks relevant to everyday life is critical for any therapeutic intervention in schizophrenia. The pattern of network node connections supports the implementation of personalized interventions.

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