GROUPS 4 HEALTH reduces loneliness and social anxiety in adults with psychological distress: Findings from a randomized controlled trial

Catherine Haslam*, Tegan Cruwys, Melissa X.L. Chang, Sarah V. Bentley, S. Alexander Haslam, Genevieve A. Dingle, Jolanda Jetten

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    107 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Objective: Loneliness is a key public health issue for which various interventions have been trialed. However, few directly target the core feature of loneliness-lack of belonging. This is the focus of GROUPS 4 HEALTH (G4H), a recently developed intervention that targets the development and maintenance of social group memberships to support health. Method: To investigate the efficacy of this intervention, a randomized controlled trial was conducted with participants (N = 120) assigned to G4H or treatment-as-usual (TAU) by computer software. Assessment of primary (loneliness) and secondary (depression, social anxiety, general practitioner visits, multiple group membership) outcomes was conducted at baseline and 2-month follow-up using mixed-model repeated-measures analyses. Results: G4H produced a greater reduction in loneliness (d = -1.04) and social anxiety (d =- -0.46) than TAU (d =- -0.33 and d =- 0.03, respectively). G4H was also associated with fewer general practitioner visits at follow-up (d=-0.33) and a stronger sense of belonging to multiple groups (d = 0.52) relative to TAU (d = 0.30 and d = 0.33, respectively). Depression declined significantly in both G4H (d = -0.63) and TAU (d = -0.34), but follow-up analyses showed this was greater in G4H among those not receiving adjunct psychopharmacological treatment and whose symptoms were milder. Conclusions: Findings suggest that G4H can be a useful way to treat loneliness and highlight the importance of attending to group memberships when tackling this important social challenge.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)787-801
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
    Volume87
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019

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