Humans possess a basic need to belong and will join groups even when they provide no practical benefit. Paranoid symptoms imply a disruption of the processes involved in belonging and social trust. Past research suggests that joining social groups and incorporating those groups into one’s identity (social identification) promotes positive self-views and better physical and mental health. However, no research has investigated whether social identity is associated with paranoia, nor the mechanisms by which this effect may emerge. Here, we examined the relationship between social identity and mental health (paranoia, auditory verbal hallucinations [AVHs], and depression), and tested the mediating role of self-esteem. In study 1, we analyzed data collected from 4319 UK residents as part of the NIHR CLAHRC NWC Household Health Survey. Study 2 comprised data collected from 1167 students attending a large UK university. The studies provided convergent evidence that social identification reduces symptoms of paranoia and depression by furnishing people with self-esteem. There was no consistent effect of social identification on AVHs. People developing mental health assessments, treatments, and policies are encouraged to consider the notion that joining and identifying with social groups may reduce people’s risk of paranoia and depression.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact [email protected]