Loneliness and health: the moderating role of befriending services.

Befriending services deliver companionship to older adults through regular volunteer visits. ALONE is a charitable organisation providing befriending services to older adults in Ireland. It is the mission statement of ALONE to use befriending to reduce the negative impact loneliness has on health, but evidence for this use of befriending is yet to be sufficiently examined. Providing such evidence would help organisations like ALONE to convince policymakers of the need for, and importance of, their services. The proposed research will use a rigorous scientific approach to evaluate the effect of befriending services on health. Two domains of health thought to be particularly important for ageing adults will be evaluated: health related quality of life (HrQoL), and cognitive function. Maximising HrQoL should be a goal of any healthcare intervention, while cognitive function is associated with dementia risk, a major factor threatening independence in later life. The proposed research will also investigate whether befriending can reduce the negative effect that loneliness is known to have on health of older adults. Service users, befriending volunteers, and professionals involved with the service, will be interviewed by researchers, to see if there are other ways that befriending might improve health. We will perform an economic analysis of the service to evaluate its cost. We will then translate all findings into befriending service recommendations for the Department of Health. To conduct our research, we need to recruit 85 new befriending service users. We also need to interview 10-15 pairs of befriender-befriendees, and 5-10 professionals involved with the service. Our expected outcomes are to provide ALONE with scientific evidence related to the effects of befriending services on health, and to influence policymakers by clarifying the extent of the economic and health benefits of befriending services.

Award Date
20 April 2018
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Joanna McHugh Power
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Applied Partnership Awards