For complex, deeply personal challenges, such as experiencing feelings of loneliness or indeed chronic loneliness, inevitably, there is no easy, quick-fix that would suit everyone. Social prescribing offers a tailored approach for us as complex, unique, individuals, complementing the medical aspects of healthcare, with the broader community and social connections that can go hand-in-hand to help us improve our emotional and physical wellbeing.
What is social prescribing?
Social prescribing enables people to access services, routes and activities that meet their wider needs around health, wellbeing and connection.
Loneliness or social isolation is one of the main reasons someone will be referred for social prescribing. While there is still work to be done for consistent measuring of the impact of social prescribing, as well as physical and mental health outcomes, increases in sociability, communication skills and making social connections as well as reduction in social isolation and loneliness and support for hard-to-reach people are outcomes that tackle issues of chronic loneliness1.
How does Social Prescribing link to loneliness?
In 2018, the UK Government published the Loneliness Strategy and has since committed resources to combat loneliness and improve individual and community wellbeing. In 2019 it launched Universal Personalised Care (UPC), a system designed around six pillars to give people choice and control over their mental and physical health.
The fourth pillar is focused on social prescribing, in which programmes employ link workers, or community connectors, to guide participants to co-develop tailored solutions for their own health. The aim is that this will reach more than 900,000 people by 2023-23 and intended to reduce loneliness and public health as a result3.
What are the benefits and impact?
Evidence suggests that social prescribing can reduce pressure on primary care and save costs2, but there is still further research to be done to fully understand its long-term impact. Fewer people may choose to visit GP’s and other healthcare professionals as a result. In one scheme, 66% of participants reduced the number of times they visited a GP4. Health professionals also had a greater choice of referral options for patients.
For the individual, benefits include;
- Increases in self-esteem and confidence
- Sense of control and empowerment
- Improvements in psychological or mental wellbeing
- Positive mood, linked to reduced anxiety and depression
- Social Prescribing Academy
- GY Reinhardt, D Vidovic, and C Hammerton. Understanding loneliness: a systematic review of the impact of social prescribing initiatives on loneliness. Published June 2021, National Library of Medicine.
- Social Prescribing Academy
- Thompson, L. J, Camic, P M. and Chatterjee, H. J. 2015. Social Prescribing: A Review of Community Referral Schemes. London: University College Lon