Objectives: Loneliness is a biopsychosocial determinant of health and contributes to physical and psychological chronic illnesses, functional decline, and mortality in older adults. This paper presents the results of the first randomized trial of LISTEN, which is a new cognitive behavioral intervention for loneliness, on loneliness, neuroimmunological stress response, psychosocial functioning, quality of life, and measures of physical health.
Methods: The effectiveness of LISTEN was evaluated in a sample population comprising 27 lonely, chronically ill, older adults living in Appalachia. Participants were randomized into LISTEN or educational attention control groups. Outcome measures included salivary cortisol and DHEA, interleukin-6, interleukin-2, depressive symptoms, loneliness, perceived social support, functional ability, quality of life, fasting glucose, blood pressure, and body mass index.
Results: At 12 weeks after the last intervention session, participants of the LISTEN group reported reduced loneliness (p = 0.03), enhanced overall social support (p = 0.05), and decreased systolic blood pressure (p = 0.02). The attention control group reported decreased functional ability (p = 0.10) and reduced quality of life (p = 0.13).
Conclusions: LISTEN can effectively diminish loneliness and decrease the systolic blood pressure in community-dwelling, chronically ill, older adults. Results indicate that this population, if left with untreated loneliness, may experience functional impairment over a period as short as 4 months. Further studies on LISTEN are needed with larger samples, in varied populations, and over longer periods of time to assess the long-term effects of diminishing loneliness in multiple chronic conditions.
Keywords: LISTEN; Loneliness; Older adults.