Groups 4 Health: Evidence that a social-identity intervention that builds and strengthens social group membership improves mental health

J Affect Disord. 2016 Apr;194:188-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.01.010. Epub 2016 Jan 21.


Background: Social isolation and disconnection have profound negative effects on mental health, but there are few, if any, theoretically-derived interventions that directly target this problem. We evaluate a new intervention, Groups 4 Health (G4H), a manualized 5-module psychological intervention that targets the development and maintenance of social group relationships to treat psychological distress arising from social isolation.

Methods: G4H was tested using a non-randomized control design. The program was delivered to young adults presenting with social isolation and affective disturbance. Primary outcome measures assessed mental health (depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, and stress), well-being (life satisfaction, self-esteem) and social connectedness (loneliness, social functioning). Our secondary goal was to assess whether mechanisms of social identification were responsible for changes in outcomes.

Results: G4H was found to significantly improve mental health, well-being, and social connectedness on all measures, both on program completion and 6-month follow-up. In line with social identity theorizing, analysis also showed that improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness, and life satisfaction were underpinned by participants' increased identification both with their G4H group and with multiple groups.

Limitations: This study provides preliminary evidence of the potential value of G4H and its underlying mechanisms, but further examination is required in other populations to address issues of generalizability, and in randomized controlled trials to address its wider efficacy.

Conclusions: Results of this pilot study confirm that G4H has the potential to reduce the negative health-related consequences of social disconnection. Future research will determine its utility in wider community contexts.

Keywords: Groups 4 Health; Mental health; Social identity; Social isolation; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / prevention & control*
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Self Concept
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Social Participation / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult