The following is a summary of “Associations between constructs related to social relationships and mental health conditions and symptoms: an umbrella review,” published in the September 2023 issue of Psychiatry by Pearce et al.
Loneliness and social isolation are associated with mental health problems. Interventions can target loneliness and social isolation to improve mental health. Researchers performed a retrospective study to give an overview of the associations between social relationships and mental health conditions.
They conducted an umbrella review (systematic review of systematic reviews) by searching 5 databases (PsycINFO, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science) and relevant online resources (PROSPERO, Campbell Collaboration, Joanna Briggs Institute Evidence Synthesis Journal). Their inclusion criteria encompassed systematic reviews of studies examining associations between constructs related to social relationships and mental health diagnoses or psychiatric symptom severity, either in clinical or general population samples. Reviews of available population studies exploring the link between loneliness and the risk of developing mental health problems were also included.
The results indicated 53 pertinent systematic reviews in a narrative synthesis. Evidence suggests that loneliness, social isolation, and social support are associated with mental health conditions and symptoms. Depression (including post-natal depression) and psychosis garnered the most attention. At the same time, there were fewer systematic reviews on eating disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with only four related to anxiety. Social support emerged as the most frequently examined social construct. Findings were constrained by the generally low quality of the reviews and their reliance on mainly cross-sectional evidence.
They concluded that more research is needed on the relationship between social constructs and mental health, especially for conditions other than depression.