Limiting loneliness for longer life

26 February 2021

Feeling lonely is not just in your mind: it affects your whole life, both physically and mentally. It can even kill you.

But a team of researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ) is helping to change all that with their Groups 4 Health (G4H) program, which randomised controlled trials have confirmed as having a positive impact on mental health wherever it has been implemented in the world.

Led by Professors Catherine Haslam and Alex Haslam from UQ’s School of Psychology, the team’s evidence-based psychological intervention directly targets the psychological distress resulting from loneliness and isolation.

“Social disconnection poses a greater health threat than smoking, poor diet or lack of exercise,” says Professor Catherine Haslam.

“As well as being a factor in depression, psychosis and social anxiety, loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by around 30 per cent.

“Our relationships with groups of others (family and friendship networks, and community, sporting and other interest groups) are especially beneficial in protecting our health, yet these are not part of existing interventions. We developed G4H to fill this gap and help people make the most of their group-based relationships to support their health.”

Team members drew on their combined expertise across the fields of social, clinical, health, organisational and neuro-psychology to develop the program, which is designed to equip people vulnerable to social isolation and disconnection with better knowledge, skills and confidence.

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Read the original UQ Research Impact story