Robotic dogs, laughter therapy and mindfulness could help people cope with loneliness and social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers from the University of Cambridge found.
The team from the university’s School of Medicine, led by Dr. Christopher Williams, reviewed 58 existing studies on loneliness and identified interventions that could be adapted for people living in lockdown or social distancing measures related to the pandemic.
Several of the studies included initiatives to combat loneliness and isolation in nursing homes and nursing homes, which are likely to be affected by confinement. Effective interventions in these settings included weekly visits from an interactive robotic dog, which was as effective as a real dog in alleviating loneliness. Another study that included weekly sessions with Paro, an interactive robotic seal that responds to stimuli by moving or mimicking the noises of a baby harp seal, significantly improved loneliness scores.
Psychological interventions seemed the most effective overall, Williams said, including mindfulness-based therapies, tai chi, qigong meditation and laughter therapy, which led to significant improvements in loneliness or loneliness outcomes. social support. Educational programs, particularly those that focus on well-being, friendship, addressing barriers to social integration, and explaining loneliness, were also identified as potentially helpful.
A combination of educational and psychological interventions, understanding the source of the problem and what can be done about it, therefore seemed more effective, Williams said.
Although they found that most studies improved loneliness, they had to be cautious of the findings. “A poor-quality study showing improvement is promising, but not definitive,” Williams cautioned, highlighting a visual arts therapy study that showed good results. “And since there aren’t enough of these studies, we had to be very cautious with our conclusions.”
There was also no guarantee that any of these approaches would work, as they have not been tested in pandemic conditions, Williams said. For example, while Wii games were found to be effective in reducing loneliness, the studies involved group play, which would only be feasible on support bubbles during lockdown and it is unclear whether the same benefits would be gained from the game. online.
Therefore, the review was intended to present options that might be feasible and could be the subject of future targeted trials, Williams added.
Another limitation was the lack of literature on social isolation compared to loneliness, Williams said. For example, an introvert may be socially isolated without feeling lonely. But the little evidence suggests that allowing or encouraging people to interact with their existing social circles – for example, weekly video calls with family members – was more effective than trying to help them make new friends.
“Many of the activities could be done on a large scale in online groups, potentially at low cost,” said Dr. Adam Townson, a co-author of the review. But in terms of the pandemic, a significant problem is that those who are likely to feel lonely or isolated may not own or know how to use electronic devices or access the Internet. “Any approach to helping people who suffer from loneliness or social isolation must take into account digital exclusion,” said Townson.
Another downside was the lack of studies on loneliness and isolation in younger student populations, low-income people, ethnic minorities and people in digital poverty, Williams said, suggesting that more research will be done on how different communities experience and can. address loneliness and social isolation. necessary.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism