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Study: telephone-based care can prevent loneliness and depression

Structured telephone-based psychological care can prevent loneliness and depression, according to an NIHR-funded study.

The Behavioural Activation in Social Isolation trial or BASIL+ was a major clinical trial carried out during the COVID pandemic. The trial found that when older people received weekly phone calls over 8 weeks, their mental health and quality of life improved. They received calls from a specially trained coach who encouraged them to maintain their social connections and remain active.

The researchers found that levels of depression reduced significantly and the benefits were greater than those seen for antidepressants.

Participants in the study reported their levels of emotional loneliness fell by 21% over three months and the benefits remained after the phone calls had stopped, suggesting a lasting impact.   

Recruitment included 59 participants at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Nicholas Woodthorpe, Consultant Psychiatrist at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Principal Investigator for the study at the trust, said: "I’m very pleased to see the positive results of this study and hopefully this type of intervention will benefit others in the future. Thank you to the research team who ran this study and also to our research department at Berkshire Healthcare for their involvement. Lastly, thank you to the participants who took part in Berkshire for their invaluable contribution."

Read more about this study on the NIHR website