This study was conducted to test the effects of a nine-month family-led peer support group for Chinese people with schizophrenia in Hong Kong over a three-year follow-up and to compare outcomes with those of psychoeducation and standard psychiatric outpatient care.
A randomized controlled trial of 106 Chinese families of patients with schizophrenia was conducted between August 2007 and January 2011 in three psychiatric outpatient clinics. Families were randomly assigned to peer support (N=35), psychoeducation (N=35), or standard care (N=36). In addition to standard care received, peer support and psychoeducation consisted of 14 two-hour group sessions, with patients participating in six to 14 sessions. Multiple patient and family outcomes—including families’ support service utilization and functioning and patients’ functioning mental state and rehospitalization rate—were measured at recruitment and one week, 18 months, and 36 months after completion of the interventions.
Patients and families in the peer support group reported consistently greater improvements over three years in overall functioning (family p<.005; patient p<.001) and reductions in duration and number of hospitalizations (p<.01 for both), without any increase in service utilization.
Family-led peer support groups were an effective intervention for Chinese people with schizophrenia, resulting in long-term effects of improving patient and family functioning and reducing rehospitalizations.