The cross-lagged relationship between loneliness, social support, and psychotic-like experiences in young adults

Publication Name

Cognitive Neuropsychiatry


Background: Individuals with psychotic disorders often report feelings of loneliness, fewer social contacts and less satisfaction with their social support prior to diagnosis. However, temporal relationships between these variables remain unclear. The primary aim of this study was to examine whether subjective and objective social factors predict, or are predicted by, psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) in healthy young adults. Methods: 196 undergraduates completed baseline and 3-month follow-up assessments for PLEs, loneliness, social support size, and satisfaction. Cross-lagged panel models were conducted to investigate the temporal relationships between these variables. Results: Higher loneliness scores, fewer social contacts, and being less satisfied with social support at both time points were significantly associated with higher endorsement of PLEs. Furthermore, after controlling for baseline levels, cross-lagged analyses revealed that individuals who reported feeling more lonely and having less social support at baseline, predicted higher PLEs three months later but not vice versa. No cross-lagged effect was found between the satisfaction of social support and PLEs. Conclusion: The study highlights the significant relationships between loneliness, social support and PLEs. Higher levels of loneliness and smaller social support networks predicted future PLEs. These findings need to be given full consideration in future clinical practice and intervention for young adults with PLEs.

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