Negative symptoms and psychosocial functioning in schizophrenia: neglected but important targets for treatment

Eur Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;27(6):432-6. doi: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2011.02.015. Epub 2011 May 23.


Background: Many patients with schizophrenia suffer from poor social functioning, with high levels of unemployment being one particular consequence. Negative symptoms tend to persist during periods of clinical stability and may have a detrimental effect on function. This paper aims to investigate the relationship between negative symptoms and ability to function.

Methods: The EGOFORS study measured negative symptoms in 295 schizophrenia patients in 11 European sites using the PANSS Negative Subscale and assessment scales for psychosocial function: Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF), Personal and Social Performance (PSP), Quality of Life Scale (QLS), Functional Remission of General Schizophrenia (FROGS), Psychosocial Remission in Schizophrenia (PSRS) and Subjective Wellbeing under Neuroleptics (SWN). The relationships between the PANSS Negative Subscale and the functional scales were investigated, adjusting for differences between study sites. Being in work, duration of illness, age of onset and number of years of education were also investigated for a relationship with function.

Results: There were strong, statistically significant correlations between PANSS Negative Subscale and all of the function scales (95% confidence intervals for the correlation coefficients: PSRS 0.77-0.91; FROGS 0.74-0.89; QLS 0.74-0.92; GAF 0.64-0.78; PSP 0.63-0.80) except the SWN. All of the functional scales except SWN were at least moderately related to one another. All of the items in each of the PANSS Negative Subscale and the function scales contributed to the relationships between them. Better functioning correlated strongly with participants being in work.

Conclusion: This study shows a strong and significant relationship between negative symptoms and psychosocial functioning. Given the impact of negative symptoms on psychosocial function, much more emphasis should be placed on developing effective treatments for negative symptoms, given that most patients with schizophrenia now live in community settings and require to function adequately to support their quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenic Psychology
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents