The University of Manchester

Groundbreaking research reveals that telephonic psychological support is a potent remedy against the perils of isolation and despondency.

New research has revealed that structured telephone-based psychological care delivered over a period of eight weeks can prevent depression and loneliness. The study, conducted during the Covid pandemic, found that regular phone calls from a specially trained coach had a significant and lasting positive impact on the mental health and quality of life of older individuals. The benefits were even greater than those seen with antidepressant medications. Participants reported a 21% reduction in emotional loneliness over a three-month period, with the effects lasting beyond the end of the phone calls. The large-scale trial, known as BASIL+, represents a major advancement in understanding how to combat loneliness and was the only mental health trial prioritized by the NHS as part of its fight against Covid. Loneliness has recently been declared a global health concern by the World Health Organization, and the results of the BASIL+ trial are expected to contribute to international efforts to address this issue. The research was led by a team from the University of York, Hull York Medical School, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, and the University of Manchester. Professor Simon Gilbody from the University of York emphasized the importance of tackling loneliness, stating that it is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. He also highlighted that the BASIL+ trial was driven by personal experiences of the researchers who witnessed their own older relatives becoming socially isolated during lockdown. Professor David Ekers from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust added that the trial represents a significant step forward in understanding how to prevent both depression and loneliness. The study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and received support from various institutions and organizations, demonstrating the collaborative effort to address major health challenges.

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