Designing technology-enabled services to tackle loneliness

Tackling loneliness was a priority for Welsh Government and public services across Wales before the Coronavirus pandemic and has become a greater concern since.

The policy response of governments across the world that are dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic has focused on us all keeping a physical distance from others. There is growing concern about the effect of physical distancing policies – often referred to as social distancing – on loneliness and social isolation. Technology may offer individuals, families, friends, and communities some potential means to mitigate these effects.

The experience of loneliness can be highly distressing and the mental and physical health effects are extremely serious. Research shows that loneliness increases risk of depression, cognitive decline and dementia, as well as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke and increases risk of death by 26%.

This report provides a synthesis of research relating to interventions that make use of technology to combat loneliness and social isolation. For the purposes of this report we adopt a broad definition of technology, that incorporates simple and highly accessible technologies such as telephone and radio, as well as digital technologies such as devices and platforms that require an internet connection.