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Study gets almost £1 million for research to support people who are lonely and isolated

2 March 2018

Study gets almost £1 million for research to support people who are lonely and isolated

A team of researchers based at three universities in England are working with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to help people who may be lonely in our communities.

In total, £976,000 is being invested by the NIHR over three years to carry out the work.

Recent figures show that around 30% of people in the UK feel lonely. Southampton City council surveyed 1500 residents and found that the figure was nearer 40% 

Dr Rebecca Band is the Chief Investigator for the study: “We know it can be really difficult to talk about feeling lonely – lots of people feel like others might not understand or that it is somehow their fault. People of any age can feel lonely for different reasons - even if they are surrounded by lots of people – and this can be bad for your health. This study will try to tackle loneliness by improving social networks and connections to the local community.”

The research will be taking place in three universities in England; The University of Southampton which hosts NIHR research teams, Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Bristol. In all, more than a dozen researchers will work on the Include project involving psychologists, social scientists, health economists, and training and support staff.

Three quarters of the people taking part in the research will come from the South of England (Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight) and the other quarter from the Liverpool area.

The NIHR research team is looking to help support people who may feel that they are lonely. One in ten older people identify as being lonely according to research by Age UK and the Campaign to end Loneliness.

The idea is to use a new way of connecting people with what’s around them in their community, using a web based tool called GENIE.

Professor Anne Rogers is the Principle Investigator for the study and Director of NIHR CLAHRC Wessex*: “This is an exciting time. Following all the investment and work that has gone into the development of a social network intervention - GENIE. This new research project will explore the effectiveness of using the mapping of networks and connecting, as a tool to overcome isolation.”

Researchers based at the University of Southampton are working alongside Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, Southampton City Council, Solent NHS Trust, NHS Southampton City and West Hampshire CCG’s, Radian (Housing Association), Social Care in Action (SCA) and Communicare to help identify people who may benefit from taking part in the study.

The team based at Liverpool John Moores University, is led by Dr Christian Blickem and will be working with Community Action Wirral, Living Well Sefton, Wellbeing Enterprises, Irish Community Care, The Whitechapel Centre, Sahir House and Crosby Housing

Councillor Paul Lewzey, Mental Health Champion at Southampton City Council, which has just commissioned GENIE, said: “The council is working with researchers from the National Institute for Health Research based at the University of Southampton and the NHS to share a tool – GENIE – that helps people who may feel lonely and isolated to reconnect with their community. The GENIE project is a good example of the council’s and its partners working collaboratively to help our residents.

“We’d like to encourage people to volunteer with groups in their community that befriend those who may be lonely, including older people. We’ll be partnering soon with faith and community groups to help share GENIE with others.”

Please visit Southampton Volunteering Services volunteering page to learn more about how you can volunteer in your community, or contact Tom Taylor, Volunteer Development Worker, Southampton Voluntary Service:

Media information:

Anyone wishing to take part in the research can email the team at:

Notes for editors

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

·          funds high quality research to improve health

·          trains and supports health researchers

·          provides world-class research facilities

·          works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all

·          involves patients and the public at every step

For further information, visit the NIHR website

This research is funded by the NIHR Public Health Research programme, the GENIE tool has been developed by NIHR CLAHRC Wessex* and is commissioned by NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for use by Southampton City council. *Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (Wessex)

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Annual NIHR CLAHRC Wessex Event 2018
Thu 14th June 09:00 - 14:00
Grand Harbour Hotel Southampton West Quay Road, Southampton, SO15 1AG, United Kingdom

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