Could reconnecting people help improve health and wellbeing?

Could reconnecting people with each other and their communities help improve health and wellbeing?

This is a question the University of Southampton are asking. A new research project, titled The Project About Loneliness and Social Isolation (PALS), is working in partnership with housing provider Radian and community groups to understand people’s existing relationships, and explore the effect of increasing or improving these connections on people’s health.

Feelings of loneliness and social isolation can be devastating at any time of year but can hit their peak in January following the social expectations and pressures of Christmas and the New Year.

The study aims to reconnect people to each other and their communities to help combat loneliness – over nine million people in the UK say they often or always feel lonely. The goal is to increase and improve connections because, aside from being a horrible emotional experience, loneliness can have serious implications for a person’s health and is being called the public health challenge of our time.

The PALS project has been funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) to help address this public health concern. The University of Southampton have designed a tool that aims to help people to get involved in local community activities and find the support and activity that fits with their personal interests.

Dr Rebecca Band, who is leading the research project said: “Our study will use a tool, which we’ve called GENIE, to explore people’s existing social network, find out about their interests and preferences, and then link them with social activities and support in their local communities. It is hoped that this will provide an opportunity for people build more meaningful connections with others in the community, which could act as a protective buffer against the health risks associated with loneliness.”

As part of their commitment to supporting communities, Radian is working to get as many people involved as possible in order to maximise the positive impact of the study and will support participants to use the GENIE tool.

Ralph Facey, Radian’s Executive Director of Partnerships and Projects said: “Social interaction, support and community connection are vital components of health, well-being and great places. We are proud to be working in partnership with the University of Southampton and the NHS National Institute for Health Research on this project. We believe that combining the social network technology of GENIE with our community investment approach has the potential to both improve people’s capacity to self-manage long-term health conditions and to create stronger communities.”

To be successful, the study needs as many participants as possible and Radian are looking for people to get involved. Currently, the PALS project is inviting anyone who lives in Totton, Hythe, Fawley, Netley View and surrounding areas who would like to be more engage in their communities or make new connections to take part.

People who are already involved in the project and have been supported to use the tool have reported that they are enjoying the process. Those who complete the project will also receive a £20 gift voucher.

Would you like to take part in the study?

This study is open to anyone, and if you are interested in getting involved, and would like more information or to sign up please call Kate on 02380 628170 or email kate.dench@radian.co.uk