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Tackling the ‘Loneliness Epidemic’: A Social Identity Approach
McNamara, N. (Nottingham Trent University, UK), Stevenson, C. (Nottingham Trent University, UK), Costa, S. (Nottingham Trent University), Halder, M. (Nottingham Trent University), Mair, E. (Nottingham Trent University), Bowe, M. (Nottingham Trent University), Kellezi, B. (Nottingham Trent University)
Public health initiatives to tackle loneliness identify poor community cohesion and integration as contributing factors to loneliness and increased social integration as part of the solution. However, these initiatives are rarely based on an in-depth understanding of the relationships between community belonging, loneliness and health. We report a programme of research, grounded in the Social Identity Approach, which takes the first step in understanding the social psychological mechanisms through which community identification contributes to health. An initial analysis of the UK Government’s 2014-15 Community Life Survey (N=4314) revealed that community identification enhanced health through increased social support and reduced loneliness. Our second study involved a bespoke survey in two neighbourhoods (Area 1, N=452; Area 2, N=167) in Nottinghamshire, UK identified as pilot areas for a local government loneliness intervention. Analyses revealed symmetries and asymmetries between the neighbourhoods. In both, community identification positively impacted on health through reduced feelings of loneliness. In Area 1 only, the relationship between community identification and health was mediated by increased social support and reduced loneliness. This research identifies potential pathways through which community identification benefits health and contributes toward the building of an evidence base to support the development and evaluation of community-based loneliness interventions.
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Social Identity and Applied Psychology