Conceptual Framework for Social Connectedness in Mental Disorders: Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis

J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 15;245:188-199. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.10.359. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


Background: Adults with mental disorders are at a high risk of loneliness. Loneliness has been implicated in a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. Social connectedness interventions are one means to tackle loneliness but have shown mixed effectiveness. This study aims to: (1) identify existing measures of social connectedness and (2) develop a conceptual framework of social connectedness to inform future measurement and the development of new interventions.

Methods: A systematic review of studies from six bibliographic databases was conducted. Studies were included if a quantitative measure of social connectedness was used amongst samples of adults with a mental disorder. Two analyses were conducted: a best evidence synthesis of measurement properties for identified measures and a narrative synthesis of items from these measures.

Results: Twenty-eight papers were included, employing 21 different measures. Measurement properties were of poor or unknown quality. Data synthesis identified a five-dimension conceptual framework of social connectedness: Closeness, Identity and common bond, Valued relationships, Involvement and Cared for and accepted (giving the acronym CIVIC).

Limitations: The majority of studies were conducted in high-income countries. It was not possible to validate the conceptual framework using the identified psychometric data.

Conclusions: The new five-dimension framework of social connectedness in mental disorders provides the theoretical foundation for developing new measures and interventions for social connectedness.

Keywords: Conceptual framework; Measures; Mental disorders; Social connectedness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Social Behavior*