Does stimulating various coping strategies alleviate loneliness? Results from an online friendship enrichment program

J Soc Pers Relat. 2017 Sep;34(6):793-811. doi: 10.1177/0265407516659158. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


Loneliness stems from a mismatch between the social relationships one has and those one desires. Loneliness often has severe consequences for individuals and society. Recently, an online adaptation of the friendship enrichment program (FEP) was developed and tested to gain insight in its contribution to the alleviation of loneliness. Three loneliness coping strategies are introduced during the program: network development, adapting relationship standards, and reducing the importance of the discrepancy between actual and desired relationships. Data were collected among 239 participants aged 50-86. Loneliness was measured four times using a multi-item scale, and on various days with a single, direct question. Loneliness assessed with the scale declined during and after the program. Scores on loneliness assessed for a specific day, however, are more ambiguous. Despite the immediate positive effect of conducting assignments, we did not observe a decline in the single loneliness item score over the course of the program. The online FEP seems to reduce loneliness in general, but these effects are not visible on today's loneliness. Nevertheless, the online intervention to reduce loneliness is a valuable new contribution to the collection of loneliness interventions.

Keywords: Coping; friendship; intervention; loneliness; online.