Effect evaluation of a two-year complex intervention to reduce loneliness in non-institutionalised elderly Dutch people
1 Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition, Academic Collaborative Centre AGORA, P.O. Box 8129, 6700, Wageningen, EV, the Netherlands
2 GGD Noord-en Oost-Gelderland (Community Health Service), Academic Collaborative Centre AGORA, P.O. Box 51, 7300, Apeldoorn, AB, the Netherlands
BMC Public Health 2013, 13:984 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-984Published: 21 October 2013
Public health policy calls for intervention programmes to reduce loneliness in the ageing population. So far, numerous loneliness interventions have been developed, with effectiveness demonstrated for few of these interventions. The loneliness intervention described in this manuscript distinguishes itself from others by including multiple intervention components and targeting individuals and their environment. Intervention components included a mass media campaign, information meetings, psychosocial group courses, social activities organised by neighbours, and training of intermediaries. The aim of this manuscript is to study the effects of this integrated approach on initial and long-term outcomes.
A quasi-experimental pre-test post-test intervention study was conducted among non-institutionalised elderly people aged 65 years and over to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention by comparing the intervention community and the control community. Data on outputs, initial and long-term outcomes, and the overall goal were collected by self-administered questionnaires. Data of 858 elderly people were available for the analyses. To assess the effect linear regression analyses with adjustments for age, gender, church attendance, and mental health were used. In addition, the process evaluation provided information about the reach of the intervention components.
After two years, 39% of the elderly people were familiar with the intervention programme. The intervention group scored more favourably than the control group on three subscales of the initial outcome, motivation (−4.4%, 95% CI−8.3-−0.7), perceived social support (−8.2%, 95% CI−13.6-−2.4), and subjective norm (−11.5%, 95% CI−17.4-−5.4). However, no overall effects were observed for the long-term outcome, social support, and overall goal, loneliness.
Two years after its initiation the reach of the intervention programme was modest. Though no effect of the complex intervention was found on social support and loneliness, more favourable scores on loneliness literacy subscales were induced.