The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has allocated over $5.5 million in targeted funding to support four research teams dedicated to exploring strategies for identifying and assisting individuals with chronic diseases who experience loneliness and social isolation.
Among the funded projects is a study aimed at developing social inclusion-focused care for people with mental illness, as well as a clinical trial investigating an intervention to address loneliness in individuals undergoing treatment for alcohol and other drug misuse.
Loneliness and social isolation can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health, with increased risks of developing chronic health conditions or exacerbating existing health issues.
“These research projects are responding to needs in our community and their results will help drive improvements in chronic disease management and rehabilitation,” stated Professor Kelso, NHMRC CEO.
The NHMRC’s Targeted Call for Research (TCR) on Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Chronic Disease Management 2022 was initiated in response to the NHMRC Health Translation Advisory Committee’s identification of the issue as a research priority. It aims to address concerns raised by advocacy groups such as Ending Loneliness Together.
The funding announcement includes the following projects:
- Almost $1.8 million for Dr Kate Fila (University of Melbourne) and team to develop resources to support mental health services in identifying and addressing social exclusion for people receiving treatment of their mental illness.
- Over $1.7 million for Professor Catherine Mihalopoulos (Monash University) and her collaborators to work with a diverse team of consumer and community members to develop acceptable, targeted, equitable and cost-effective strategies for tackling loneliness and social isolation as part of a holistic approach to chronic disease management.
- Over $780,000 for a team led by Professor Viviana Wuthrich (Macquarie University) for research to identify and target the psychological factors that lead to social isolation, loneliness and poorer outcomes for people with chronic disease.
- Almost $1.3 million for Professor Peter Kelly (University of Wollongong) and collaborators to conduct a randomised controlled trial examining the effectiveness of a loneliness intervention, Groups for Belonging, to help people accessing alcohol and other drug treatment services to recover by re-establishing meaningful social relationships.
NHMRC’s TCR grant schemes are designed to promote research and build research capacity in addressing specific health issues where significant knowledge gaps or unmet needs exist. These targeted research endeavours will generate evidence to inform policies and programmes both within and beyond the health sector, addressing the health impacts of social isolation and loneliness.
Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.