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Initial evidence review - Strategies for encouraging psychological and emotional resilience in response to loneliness 2019

Coughtrey, Anna; Birken, Mary; Steare, Tom; Bennett, Sophie; Johnson, Sonia; Pitman, Alexandra; McCloud, Tayla; ... Shafran, Roz; + view all (2019) Initial evidence review - Strategies for encouraging psychological and emotional resilience in response to loneliness 2019. UCL Division of Psychiatry: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

It is now widely accepted that loneliness is influenced by a combination of psychological factors, including attitudes to participating in social interactions and mental health problems, as well as environmental factors such as living far from family and friends and life events and transitions such as bereavement and moving away from home. Despite increased recognition of the importance of individual-level processes and meanings that influence the experience of loneliness, there is a gap in our knowledge of how best to address the psychological factors that contribute to chronic loneliness. In this report, we aim to synthesise information from a range of sources in order to identify the psychological pathways to loneliness and relevant psychological barriers to accessing strategies which target social isolation. The report highlights promising interventions that have potential to target the psychological aspects of loneliness. It makes a series of recommendations to improve understanding and delivery of effective psychological interventions to address loneliness and how the interaction between such strategies and community-based interventions. We conducted an extensive scoping review of the academic literature, including online database searches and broader searches reviewing conference abstracts and reports from the Third Sector. We obtained expert opinions by speaking to relevant stakeholders including people with lived experiences of loneliness, charitable organisations working with people who are experiencing chronic loneliness, and those involved in developing and evaluating interventions to tackle loneliness. Much of the work focused on older adults but we also looked at interventions delivered across the age range. We report the findings from this work, including an overview of the wide range of psychological factors which might explain why some people who are chronically lonely struggle to engage with community strategies and other sources of support that are available. These factors include having mental health problems, personality characteristics and having unhelpful beliefs and behaviours related to social interactions. We recommend that interventions that target either the psychological or social aspects of loneliness should not be provided in isolation, and that multi-modal interventions are likely to be most successful. Further research evidence is needed to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of delivering psychological interventions in conjunction with community-based strategies. Social prescribing is a potential opportunity for the successful delivery of psycho-social interventions. For example, integration of psychological and community-based support could be promoted by including directories of psychological support in guides to community based resources, and by connecting social prescribing link workers with their local improving access to psychological therapies services. The social psychological approaches such as the Groups 4 Health model (Haslam et al., 2019; Haslam, Cruwys, Haslam, Dingle & Chang, 2016) show promise and potentially could bridge psychological and social understandings of loneliness. There is preliminary research evidence that interventions that address the psychological factors involved in loneliness can be successful, and there are various approaches to addressing these factors across the UK, although many initiatives have not yet been fully evaluated. The strongest research evidence was found for cognitive behavioural interventions, and there are some promising developments, including digital initiatives which are designed to change individuals’ thoughts and feelings about loneliness, that are worthy of further evaluation. We would also recommend that acceptance and commitment therapy is formally evaluated as an intervention for loneliness. We noted that the research base in this area is still underdeveloped and more work is needed to demonstrate which interventions are most accessible to people who are chronically lonely and can feasibly be delivered within NHS and community settings. Research into the potential adverse effects of psychological interventions, individual differences in responsiveness and the longer term impact on loneliness is also needed. It is likely that including measures of loneliness in evaluations of interventions for social anxiety and grief and in routine work with older adults in improving access to psychological therapies services would yield data that will contribute to the growing evidence base in this area. We hope that bringing together the research evidence and expert opinion in this report will increase awareness of the wide range of psychological factors implicated in loneliness and lead to further provision of psychological interventions for loneliness, in combination with community based support for social isolation.

Type: Report
Title: Initial evidence review - Strategies for encouraging psychological and emotional resilience in response to loneliness 2019
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/psychiatry/sites/psychiatry/...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: loneliness, psychological resilience, emotional resilience, evidence review
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10147080
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