A Systematic Review of Loneliness Interventions Among Non-elderly Adults

Abstract

Loneliness—the subjective experience of social isolation—is an important indicator of quality of life for adults and a major determinant of health. While much research has focused on interventions to alleviate loneliness in elderly populations, there has been no systematic investigation of loneliness interventions targeting the non-elderly adult population. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize current understanding on the effectiveness of interventions for alleviating loneliness among non-elderly adults. Littell et al.’s (Systematic reviews and meta-analysis, Oxford University Press, New York, 2008) systematic review process was used to organize, synthesize, and critique findings. An electronic search was conducted using relevant databases (CINAHL, Pubmed, PsycINFO, Social Work Abstracts) and keywords and index terms for three concepts: age, loneliness outcome, and intervention study. Study selection was limited to studies conducted in English, assessed a primary outcome measure of loneliness, and included a population of non-elderly adults ages 18 to 64. Out of 5813 studies identified for initial screening, 264 studies underwent full-text review, and 68 studies met inclusion criteria. Pairs of reviewers extracted and synthesized data including research design, sampling techniques, and outcomes. Results are grouped by primary sub-populations in which interventions were conducted including people with mental illnesses; disabilities; chronic illnesses; military members; parents and caregivers; immigrants and refugees; and other marginalized groups. Several interventions, particularly those involving technology and support groups, significantly reduced loneliness. This review informs clinical social work practice around programs that reduce loneliness and its consequences among specific sub-populations of non-elderly adults.

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Correspondence to Melissa L. Bessaha.

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Bessaha, M.L., Sabbath, E.L., Morris, Z. et al. A Systematic Review of Loneliness Interventions Among Non-elderly Adults. Clin Soc Work J 48, 110–125 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-019-00724-0

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Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • Intervention
  • Non-elderly
  • Systematic review