Study protocol for 'The Project About Loneliness and Social networks (PALS)': a pragmatic, randomised trial comparing a facilitated social network intervention (Genie) with a wait-list control for lonely and socially isolated people

BMJ Open. 2019 Aug 18;9(8):e028718. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-028718.


Introduction: Loneliness and social isolation have been identified as significant public health concerns, but improving relationships and increasing social participation may improve health outcomes and quality of life. The aim of the Project About Loneliness and Social networks (PALS) study is to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a guided social network intervention within a community setting among individuals experiencing loneliness and isolation and to understand implementation of Generating Engagement in Network Involvement (Genie) in the context of different organisations.

Methods and analysis: The PALS trial will be a pragmatic, randomised controlled trial comparing participants receiving the Genie intervention to a wait-list control group. Eligible participants will be recruited from organisations working within a community setting: any adult identified as socially isolated or at-risk of loneliness and living in the community will be eligible. Genie will be delivered by trained facilitators recruited from community organisations. The primary outcome will be the difference in the SF-12 Mental Health composite scale score at 6-month follow-up between the intervention and control group using a mixed effects model (accounting for clustering within facilitators and organisation). Secondary outcomes will be loneliness, social isolation, well-being, physical health and engagement with new activities. The economic evaluation will use a cost-utility approach, and adopt a public sector perspective to include health-related resource use and costs incurred by other public services. Exploratory analysis will use a societal perspective, and explore broader measures of benefit (capability well-being). A qualitative process evaluation will explore organisational and environmental arrangements, as well as stakeholder and participant experiences of the study to understand the factors likely to influence future sustainability, implementation and scalability of using a social network intervention within this context.

Ethics and dissemination: This study has received NHS ethical approval (REC reference: 18/SC/0245). The findings from PALS will be disseminated widely through peer-reviewed publications, conferences and workshops in collaboration with our community partners.

Trial registration number: ISRCTN19193075.

Keywords: loneliness; protocol; randomised controlled trial; social isolation; social networks.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol
  • Pragmatic Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Mental Health
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Social Networking*
  • Social Participation*
  • Social Support*
  • United Kingdom
  • Waiting Lists

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN19193075