Review: Alleviating loneliness in young people – a meta‐analysis of interventions

Eccles, Alice orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1618-4436 and Qualter, Pamela (2021) Review: Alleviating loneliness in young people – a meta‐analysis of interventions. Child And Adolescent Mental Health, 26 (1). pp. 17-33. ISSN 1475-357X

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Background: Loneliness is common among youth, and is associated with poor physical and mental health, and poor educational outcomes. To date, there have been no meta-analyses of interventions aimed at reducing loneliness among young people. Methods: We conducted meta-analyses of single group and randomised control trials (RCTs) of studies published between 1980 and 2019, which measured loneliness as an outcome in youth ages 25 years or younger. Moderators, including sample demographics and intervention characteristics, that might affect intervention success, were examined. Results: A total of 39 studies (14 single group and 25 RCTs) were included and we found evidence that youth loneliness could be reduced via intervention. Moderator analysis – including intervention characteristics, study quality, and sample demographics – were also examined. Conclusions: While interventions were shown to reduce loneliness among youth, the interventions included in the meta-analyses often targeted youth viewed to be at risk – e.g. those with health concerns - and rarely did the interventions target youth who reported loneliness. There is also no indication of whether youth experienced chronic or transient loneliness. In future work, interventions should be designed specifically for loneliness, with universal programmes helping youth manage their transient feelings of loneliness, and targeted interventions for those suffering from chronic loneliness. There is also a need to look at socioeconomic and other risk factors outside the individual for targeted interventions.

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