Social functioning in patients with depressive and anxiety disorders

I. M.J. Saris, M. Aghajani, S. J.A. van der Werff, N. J.A. van der Wee, B. W.J.H. Penninx

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Objective: Adaptive social functioning is severely impeded in depressive and anxiety disorders, even after remission. However, a comprehensive overview is still lacking. Method: Using data from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA), behavioural (network size, social activities, social support) and affective (loneliness, affiliation, perceived social disability) indicators of social functioning were analyzed in patients with anxiety (N = 540), depressive (N = 393), comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders (‘comorbid’, N = 748), remitted participants (N = 621), and healthy control subjects (N = 650). Results: Analyses revealed an increasing trend of social dysfunction among patient groups, in patients with comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders, showing the most severe impairments, followed by depressed and anxious patients (P's < 0.001 for all social functioning indicators). Affective indicators showed the largest effect sizes (Cohen's d range from 0.13 to 1.76). We also found impairments in social functioning among remitted patients. Furthermore, perceived social disability among patients was predictive of still having a depressive and/or anxiety diagnosis 2 years later (P < 0.01). Conclusions: Behavioural but especially affective indicators of social functioning are impaired in patients with anxiety or depressive disorders and most in patients with comorbid disorders. After remission of affective psychopathology, residual impairments tend to remain, while social dysfunction in patients seems predictive of future psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-361
Number of pages10
JournalActa psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • social functioning

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