Introduction: In patients with psychotic disorders, both tobacco smoking and deficits in social cognition and social functioning are highly prevalent. However, little is known about their relationship in psychosis. The authors sought to evaluate the multi-cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between tobacco smoking, social cognition and social functioning in a large prospective study.
Methods: This study was performed within the Genetic Risk and Outcome of Psychosis (GROUP) Study, a cohort study conducted in patients with non-affective psychosis (N = 1074), their unaffected siblings (N = 1047) and healthy controls (N = 549). At baseline, three years and six years of follow-up, data on tobacco smoking (using the Composite International Diagnostic Review), social cognition (emotion processing and theory of mind) and social functioning were collected. To assess associations between tobacco smoking and social cognition or social functioning, multivariate linear mixed-effects models and multiple linear regression models were used. Bonferroni correction for multiple testing was applied.
Results: A significant positive association was found between smoking and emotion processing (as part of social cognition) in the patient group (estimate = 1.96, SE = 0.6, p = 0.003). However, smoking was significantly negatively associated with participating in pro-social activities compared with smoking (estimate = 2.55, SE = 0.9, p = 0.004). Change in smoking behaviour was not associated with social cognition or social functioning in the longitudinal analyses.
Conclusion: Findings indicate that smoking patients with a non-affective psychotic disorder slightly outperformed their non-smoking peers on a task on social cognition, but participated less in pro-social activities. Commencement or cessation of smoking was not related to social cognition or functioning.