Social identity and a sense of belonging, including inclusion within neighborhood, city, and online communities, demonstrated the ability to reduce the incidence of paranoia and depression, according to research published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin.
Researchers from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, conducted 2 separate studies to assess the relationship between social identity and mental health. In the first, they evaluated the association between paranoia and depression and neighborhood identity in 4319 UK residents; in the second study, they examined links between social identity and paranoia and depression in 1167 university students. They measured neighborhood identity on a 4-point scale using a survey and evaluated social identity with a 3-question survey that linked identification with 6 social groups likely to be important to UK university students: country of origin, England, university city, university, university friendship group, and online community.
Among UK residents, neighborhood identity was associated with lower levels of paranoia and depression through improved self-esteem; however, no correlation between neighborhood identity and auditory or visual hallucinations was reported.
For university students, friendship group identification was significantly associated with depression and paranoia as mediated by self-esteem. The researchers again found no correlation between social identification and auditory or visual hallucinations. According to the investigators, the lack of an effect on auditory or visual hallucinations was expected, as hallucinations are believed to be mediated by a disruption in internal speech.
Based on the results of these 2 studies, the investigators concluded that “partial mediation effects for paranoia and depression suggests that social identity predicts paranoia and depression through self-esteem, but also other unmeasured pathways. This is consistent with theorising that social identity protects against psychosis via several social and psychological mechanisms.”
McIntyre JC, Wickham S, Barr B, Bentall RP. Social identity and psychosis: associations and psychological mechanisms [published online August 26, 2017]. Schizophr Bull. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbx110