The project carries out an interdisciplinary exploration of psychologically and ethically suitable interventions to decrease social isolation. The aim is to integrate loneliness mitigation measures in pandemic management plans.
It is widely acknowledged that the pandemic, and successive restriction measures, have caused serious disruption to ordinary lives and a deterioration in public mental health. Apart from illness and death, a distinctive mark of the pandemic has been disrupted social interactions, increasing social isolation and loneliness. Mental health consequences varied widely and were significantly dependent on an individual’s unique social context. While the National COVID-19 Science Task Force proposed already in June 2020 that mitigation measures for main stress factors should be included among pandemic management plans (PMPs), in-depth research on concrete measures and on the ethical balancing between prevention of mental health problems versus prevention of virus spread remains scarce.
Loneliness and its mitigation need be the focus of further research. Already before the pandemic, between 1/5-1/3 of the people suffered from loneliness. It is a serious risk for mental and physical health. There is a need to include loneliness prevention and alleviation interventions (LPAIs) in PMPs to reduce the psychological, physical and behavioral effects of social isolation measures, increase individual and social welfare and enable strategies to reduce the burden caused by pandemics.
The aim is to explore in-depth the experiences of people affected by loneliness in order to identify types and justifications of loneliness prevention and alleviation interventions that can inform PMPs. The study will identify the types of interventions offered by different levels of society to counter loneliness and conduct qualitative explorative research with at risk groups for loneliness. A questionnaire study will help to confirm the perceived usefulness of loneliness alleviation measures.
The project is highly beneficial as it will 1) produce practical recommendations for future PMPs including a white paper for policy makers and 2) provide new much needed Swiss in-depth as well as quantitative data; it will 3) provide an analysis of the types of LPAIs identified in the literature as effective and will 4) benefit national and international academic and practical debates on better crisis management and increased individual and collective welfare.
The research will be useful for the federal commission that revises the Swiss pandemic management plan as well as for cantonal authorities, NGOs and other stakeholders active in loneliness prevention and alleviation.
INtegrating loneliness mitigation measures in pandemic management plans: an interdisCiplinary in-depth expLoration of psychologically and ethically sUitable interventions to DecreasE social isolation [INCLUDE]