GROUPS 4 HEALTH reduces loneliness and social anxiety in adults with psychological distress: Findings from a randomized controlled trial

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2019 Sep;87(9):787-801. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000427.


Objective: Loneliness is a key public health issue for which various interventions have been trialed. However, few directly target the core feature of loneliness-lack of belonging. This is the focus of Groups 4 Health (G4H), a recently developed intervention that targets the development and maintenance of social group memberships to support health.

Method: To investigate the efficacy of this intervention, a randomized controlled trial was conducted with participants (N = 120) assigned to G4H or treatment-as-usual (TAU) by computer software. Assessment of primary (loneliness) and secondary (depression, social anxiety, general practitioner visits, multiple group membership) outcomes was conducted at baseline and 2-month follow-up using mixed-model repeated-measures analyses.

Results: G4H produced a greater reduction in loneliness (d = -1.04) and social anxiety (d = -0.46) than TAU (d = -0.33 and d = 0.03, respectively). G4H was also associated with fewer general practitioner visits at follow-up (d = -0.33) and a stronger sense of belonging to multiple groups (d = 0.52) relative to TAU (d = 0.30 and d = 0.33, respectively). Depression declined significantly in both G4H (d = -0.63) and TAU (d = -0.34), but follow-up analyses showed this was greater in G4H among those not receiving adjunct psychopharmacological treatment and whose symptoms were milder.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that G4H can be a useful way to treat loneliness and highlight the importance of attending to group memberships when tackling this important social challenge. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Loneliness*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobia, Social / therapy
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Social Identification*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12617001602314