Background: Personal space is the area individuals maintain around themselves into which others cannot intrude without arousing discomfort.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to establish whether schizophrenic patients and mentally healthy adults differ in interpersonal distance preferences according to 1) mental health status 2) experimenter sex 3) approach direction and/or 4) type of disorder.
Subjects: 114 patients who met the ICD-10 criteria for schizophrenia and 120 age and gender matching adults with no history of mental illness participated in the study.
Method: Personal space was assessed using stop-distance technique. All subjects were approached by female and male experimenter from four directions.
Results: Personal space zone was significantly larger in the schizophrenic patients than in the comparison group. Subjects in both groups maintained larger interpersonal distances when approached by a male experimenter and when approached frontally. No significant difference in personal space preference was found between subjects manifesting paranoid and residual type of schizophrenia.
Conclusions: The results suggest that schizophrenic patients, presumably due to their mental health, demonstrate a stronger need for personal space. These results are consistent with the protective function of personal space.