Preventing loneliness and social isolation: interventions and outcomes
- Older people are particularly vulnerable to social isolation or loneliness owing to loss of friends and family, mobility or income.
- Social isolation and loneliness impact upon individuals’ quality of life and wellbeing, adversely affecting health and increasing their use of health and social care services.
- The interventions to tackle social isolation or loneliness include: befriending, mentoring, Community Navigators, social group schemes.
- People who use befriending or Community Navigator services reported that they were less lonely and socially isolated following the intervention.
- The outcomes from mentoring services are less clear; one study reported improvements in mental and physical health, another that no difference was found.
- Where longitudinal studies recorded survival rates, older people who were part of a social group intervention had a greater chance of survival than those who had not received such a service.
- Users report high satisfaction with services, benefiting from such interventions by increasing their social interaction and community involvement, taking up or going back to hobbies and participating in wider community activities.
- Users argued for flexibility and adaptation of services. One-to-one services could be more flexible, while enjoyment of group activities would be greater if these could be tailored to users’ preferences.
- When planning services to reduce social isolation or loneliness, strong partnership arrangements need to be in place between organisations to ensure developed services can be sustained.
- We need to invest in proven projects. Community Navigator interventions have been shown to be effective in identifying those individuals who are socially isolated. Befriending services can be effective in reducing depression and cost-effective.
- Research needs to be carried out on interventions that include different genders, populations and localities.
- There is an urgent need for more longitudinal, randomised controlled trials that incorporate standardised quality-of-life and cost measures.
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