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Effectiveness of a volunteer befriending programme for patients with schizophrenia: randomised controlled trial

  • Stefan Priebe (a1), Agnes Chevalier (a2), Thomas Hamborg (a3), Eoin Golden (a4), Michael King (a5) and Nancy Pistrang (a6)...

Abstract

Background

Befriending by volunteers has the potential to reduce the frequent social isolation of patients with schizophrenia and thus improve health outcomes. However, trial-based evidence for its effectiveness is limited.

Aims

To conduct a randomised controlled trial of befriending for patients with schizophrenia or related disorders.

Method

Patients were randomised to a befriending programme for 1 year or to receive information about social activities only (trial registration: ISRCTN14021839). Outcomes were assessed masked to allocation at the end of the programme; at 12 months and at a 6-month follow-up. The primary outcome was daily time spent in activities (using the Time Use Survey (TUS)) with intention-to-treat analysis.

Results

A total of 124 patients were randomised (63 intervention, 61 active control) and 92 (74%) were followed up at 1 year. In the intervention group, 49 (78%) met a volunteer at least once and 31 (49%) had more than 12 meetings. At 1 year, mean TUS scores were more than three times higher in both groups with no significant difference between them (adjusted difference 8.9, 95% CI −40.7 to 58.5, P = 0.72). There were no significant differences in quality of life, symptoms or self-esteem. However, patients in the intervention group had significantly more social contacts than those in the control group at the end of the 12-month period. This difference held true at the follow-up 6 months later.

Conclusions

Although no difference was found on the primary outcome, the findings suggest that befriending may have a lasting effect on increasing social contacts. It may be used more widely to reduce the social isolation of patients with schizophrenia.

Declaration of interest

None.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Stefan Priebe, Academic Unit, Newham Centre for Mental Health, London E13 8SP, UK. Email: s.priebe@qmul.ac.uk

References

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Effectiveness of a volunteer befriending programme for patients with schizophrenia: randomised controlled trial

  • Stefan Priebe (a1), Agnes Chevalier (a2), Thomas Hamborg (a3), Eoin Golden (a4), Michael King (a5) and Nancy Pistrang (a6)...
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