More Than A Meal? A Randomized Control Trial Comparing the Effects of Home-Delivered Meals Programs on Participants' Feelings of Loneliness

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2016 Nov;71(6):1049-1058. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv111. Epub 2015 Nov 26.


Objective: Nutrition service providers are seeking alternative delivery models to control costs and meet the growing need for home-delivered meals. The objective of this study was to evaluate the extent to which the home-delivered meals program, and the type of delivery model, reduces homebound older adults' feelings of loneliness.

Methods: This project utilizes data from a three-arm, fixed randomized control study conducted with 626 seniors on waiting lists at eight Meals on Wheels programs across the United States. Seniors were randomly assigned to either (i) receive daily meal delivery; (ii) receive once-weekly meal delivery; or (iii) remain on the waiting list. Participants were surveyed at baseline and again at 15 weeks. Analysis of covariance was used to test for differences in loneliness between groups, over time and logistic regression was used to assess differences in self-rated improvement in loneliness.

Results: Participants receiving meals had lower adjusted loneliness scores at follow-up compared with the control group. Individuals who received daily-delivered meals were more likely to self-report that home-delivered meals improved their loneliness than the group receiving once-weekly delivered meals.

Discussion: This article includes important implications for organizations that provide home-delivered meals in terms of cost, delivery modality, and potential recipient benefits.

Keywords: Attachment theory; Home-delivered meals; Homebound; Loneliness.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Services / organization & administration*
  • Homebound Persons / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Male
  • Time Factors
  • United States