BACKGROUND: Social cognitive impairment is a recognized feature of psychotic disorders. However, potential age-related differences in social cognitive impairment have rarely been studied.
STUDY DESIGN: Data came from 905 individuals with a psychotic disorder, 966 unaffected siblings, and 544 never-psychotic controls aged 18-55 who participated in the Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis (GROUP) study. Multilevel linear models were fitted to study group main effects and the interaction between group and age on emotion perception and processing (EPP; degraded facial affect recognition) and theory of mind (ToM; hinting task) performance. Age-related differences in the association between socio-demographic and clinical factors, and EPP and ToM were also explored.
STUDY RESULTS: Across groups, EPP performance was associated with age (β = -0.02, z = -7.60, 95% CI: -0.02, -0.01, P < .001), with older participants performing worse than younger ones. A significant group-by-age interaction on ToM (X2(2) = 13.15, P = .001) indicated that older patients performed better than younger ones, while no age-related difference in performance was apparent among siblings and controls. In patients, the association between negative symptoms and ToM was stronger for younger than older patients (z = 2.16, P = .03).
CONCLUSIONS: The findings point to different age-related performance patterns on tests of 2 key social cognitive domains. ToM performance was better in older individuals, although this effect was only observed for patients. EPP was less accurate in older compared with younger individuals. These findings have implications with respect to when social cognitive training should be offered to patients.