LONELINESS interventions were a key area explored at the recent Joint Public Health Conference held in Belfast.
Dr Annette Burns from the Institute of Public Health (IPH) and Professor Gerry Leavey of the University of Ulster presented at workshop on loneliness interventions which attracted a full room. The workshop was chaired by Prof Roger O’Sullivan, Interim CEO of IPH.
Dr Burns provided an overview of loneliness in terms of how it is defined, theories and types of loneliness, and how it differs from isolation. Individual and environmental risk factors were then presented, as well as the distribution of loneliness across the lifespan.
Prof Leavey spoke about the complexity of pathways to loneliness, taking migrant groups as an example. Dr Burns also outlined the framework of existing interventions for loneliness before opening up to group discussion on strategies for tackling and preventing loneliness.
The workshop attendees provided a range of insights from practice. It was highlighted that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in terms of solutions to loneliness and that it is crucial to involve the groups affected in development of interventions.
In relation to carers, the need to also protect from loneliness, especially after the caring role comes to end, was raised.
Finally, a general point was made that policy and service development in this area requires cross departmental and cross sectoral work to be most effective.