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Some Schizophrenia Patients can be Happy Despite Chronic Mental Problems

Aug 19, 2014 04:46 AM EDT
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Some schizophrenia patients are as happy as people with no mental health problems are, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California's San Diego School of Medicine., suggests that mental health problems might not diminish happiness.

"People tend to think that happiness in schizophrenia is an oxymoron," said senior author Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences.

"Without discounting the suffering this disease inflicts on people, our study shows that happiness is an attainable goal for at least some schizophrenia patients," said Jeste, "This means we can help make these individuals' lives happier."

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition and is characterized by mostly auditory hallucinations. The disorder affects as many as 24 million people worldwide.

The study was based on data from 72 English-speaking patients from San Diego area. Participants were on at least one anti-psychotic medication at the start of the study and were all living in assisted living facilities.

The control group in the study included 64 healthy men and women who were part of another study on successful aging. None of the participants were using alcohol or other illicit drugs. Also, none of them had any diagnosis of dementia or other neurological problems.

All participants were aged between 23 and 70 years, with a mean age of 50 years.

The researchers found that around 37 percent of the schizophrenia patients reported being happy almost all the time. On the other hand, around 83 percent of people in the control group said that they were happy all the time.
The team even accounted for other factors such as age, gender and socioeconomic status and found that happiness among chronic schizophrenia patients is linked to resilience, optimism and lower perceived stress.

"People with schizophrenia are clearly less happy than those in the general population at large, but this is not surprising," said lead author Barton W. Palmer, PhD, professor in the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry, according to a news release. "What is impressive is that almost 40 percent of these patients are reporting happiness and that their happiness is associated with positive psychosocial attributes that can be potentially enhanced."

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