Interventions to Address Social Isolation and Loneliness: Lessons Learned from Programs Around the Globe

Matthew S. Pantell
Laura Shields-Zeeman
Andrew Old
Holly Wing
Rebecca Dileo
Nancy E. Adler
Laura M. Gottlieb
May 2021


Case studies and lessons from evidence-based interventions to address social isolation and loneliness in older adults.


Social isolation and loneliness are associated with poor health outcomes, including outcomes related to cardiovascular disease, mental illness, and mortality, as well as higher costs. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated isolation, and many providers, payers, and policymakers are interested in identifying evidence-based interventions to address these issues. This report identifies social isolation interventions from settings around the world many of which focus on older adults with co-occurring medical or behavioral health conditions and includes case studies of select interventions.


The interventions profiled in this report include an adult group psychology intervention, a virtual communications product for older adults, a group cognitive-behavioral intervention, a therapeutic robot seal to support older adults and their caregivers, and a group-based intervention for lonely older adults. Ingredients for success across interventions include reducing stigma associated with isolation and appropriately selecting program participants. User-centered design was identified as a key factor in supporting successful development and adoption of interventions. Organizations surveyed identified participation recruitment and funding as implementation barriers.


Lessons from evidence-based interventions in global settings to address social isolation and loneliness can support stakeholders in developing and implementing sustainable interventions for people with complex health and social needs. Notably, online programs were found to be feasible when it is challenging to have in-person contact, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.


For more information on this work, read this blog post and listen to this podcast from The Commonwealth Fund.

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