In Loneliness Week, review indicates social prescribing does help

  • Date

    Thu 18 Jun 20

Social prescribing can positively combat loneliness according to a recent review of research into the approach that confirmed individuals and service providers valued it as helpful tool.

The review, led by the University of Essex, argues more large-scale investigations are needed to understand its full impact and potential.

Social prescribing is when a heath professional refers a patient to non-clinical, practical and emotional support within their own community.

The review found nine published studies on social prescribing in either academic or government reports. All reported a positive impact on the individual social prescribing participant.

The review was undertaken as part of the Connected Communities Interreg project which works in partnership with local authority organisations in the UK and France.

It was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and its results come as the UK marks Loneliness Week 2020. This is an annual awareness week hosted by the Marmalade Trust which is a charity dedicated to recognising and finding solutions for loneliness.

Dr Gina Yannitell Reinhardt from the Department of Government at Essex led the review. She said:  “Loneliness has long been a significant problem within society. Now, with the onset of the COVID-19 restrictions of social distancing, isolation and shielding, the need to address loneliness has become all the more urgent.

“Ours was the first review to specifically assess the existing evidence of social prescribing as it addresses loneliness, and it found an overall positive impact from social prescribing.

“However, the existing studies tended to be small-scale, short term and lacking in consistent ways of measuring the range of effects social prescribing has on an individual, how those effects were achieved and the wider influences on health and wellbeing.

“Our goal now is to drill down and investigate social prescribing further. How exactly is it achieving positive outcomes? Which delivery methods and techniques work the best?

“We can then inform local authorities and the social prescribing network as to how they can best deliver the model.”

The team describe loneliness as a subjective, unwelcome feeling of a lack or loss of companionship that occurs when there is a mismatch between the quantity and quality of social relationships that a person has, and those that that person wants.

You can follow the project on Twitter at @ConnectCommune