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Findings from a peer-facilitated, social isolation intervention in the Veterans Health Administration healthcare system: A mixed-methods, pilot feasibility study

Eliacin J, Patterson SM, Mendez DM, Burgess DJ, Traylor MH, Borden MY, Slaven JE, Matthias MS
Journal of General Internal Medicine

Background: Social isolation is a global public health threat. Veterans are particularly at risk for social isolation due to high rates of comorbid physical and mental health problems. Yet, effective interventions are limited. Objectives: Our primary objective was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of CONNECTED, a novel, transdiagnostic intervention to reduce social isolation that includes individual and group components and is delivered by peers via telehealth. Secondary objectives were to identify appropriate outcome measures and explore preliminary intervention effects. Methods: This was a two-phase study. In Phase 1, to evaluate study feasibility, we surveyed 200 veterans to assess prevalence of social isolation and their interest in social connectedness interventions. In Phase 2, we employed a mixed-methods, pre-post study design in which we piloted CONNECTED with 19 veterans through 2 successive cohorts to further assess feasibility, to evaluate acceptability, and to explore preliminary effectiveness. Quantitative analyses involved descriptive and bivariate analyses as well as multivariate modeling. Qualitative interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Results: For Phase 1, 39% of veterans surveyed were socially isolated. Participants who were ≤ 55 years old, caregivers, and those who experienced unmet social needs were more likely to report social isolation. Over 61% expressed interest in VA programs to reduce social isolation. For Phase 2, the pilot intervention, recruitment rate was 88% and the enrollment rate was 86%. Retention rates for the two cohorts were 80% and 50%, respectively, and satisfaction rates among intervention completers were 100%. Results also showed statistically significant improvements in social isolation (+ 5.91, SD = 4.99; p =.0028), social support (+ 0.74, SD = 1.09; p =.03), anxiety (-3.92, SD = 3.73; p =.003), and depression (-3.83, SD = 3.13; p =.001). Results for the other measures were not statistically significant. Conclusion: CONNECTED is a feasible and acceptable intervention and is likely to be an effective tool to intervene on social isolation among veterans.

Eliacin J, Patterson SM, Mendez DM, et al. Findings from a peer-facilitated, social isolation intervention in the Veterans Health Administration healthcare system: a mixed-methods, pilot feasibility study. J Gen Intern Med. 2023;10.1007/s11606-023-08387-x. Epub ahead of print. DOI:10.1007/s11606-023-08387-x. PMID: 37723366

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Social Needs/ SDH
Health & Health Behaviors
Social Determinant of Health
Social Support/Social Isolation
Study design
Pre-post without Comparison Group