Time matters for mental health: a systematic review of quantitative studies on time perspective in psychiatric populations

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2024 Jul 1;37(4):309-319. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000942. Epub 2024 May 16.


Purpose of review: The ability to perform mental time travels and to develop representations of the past, the present, and the future is one of the distinctive capacities of the human mind. Despite its pronounced consequences for motivation, cognition, affect, and subjective well being, time perspective (TP) has been outside mainstream psychiatry and clinical psychology. We highlight the role of psychological-temporal phenomena in various disorders and summarize the current research on TP and psychopathology.

Recent findings: Our review ultimately comprised 21 articles, including 18 unique datasets. It revealed that persons with different psychiatric diagnoses (attention defict hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alcohol dependence, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia) display different temporal profiles than control groups. We also found marked associations between temporal features and psychiatric symptom severity. The effects of specific TPs vary across different psychiatric diagnoses and to some extent between various age groups, with a consistent, widespread, and nonspecific effect of past-negative and less balanced, inflexible TP profile.

Summary: Based on the review, TP biases are crucial factors in symptom development, while adaptive temporal profiles can serve as protective features against mental disorders. Understanding cognitive-temporal processes can enhance comprehension of psychopathological conditions and facilitate the development of temporality-focused clinical interventions.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Time Perception