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$5.5 million for research to reduce impact of loneliness on chronic disease

Four research teams will share in over $5.5 million in targeted funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to investigate ways to identify and support people with chronic disease who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation.

A project seeking to develop social inclusion focused care for people with mental illness/ living with mental ill health and a clinical trial to examine an intervention addressing loneliness for people accessing treatment for alcohol and other drug misuse are among those funded.

Social isolation and loneliness can be harmful to both mental and physical health. People who are lonely or socially isolated have a higher risk of developing a chronic health condition.

NHMRC’s Targeted Call for Research (TCR): Loneliness, social isolation and chronic disease management 2022 was set up to support research to assist in such cases. It was identified as a priority area for research by the NHMRC Health Translation Advisory Committee and responds to issues raised by advocacy groups such as Ending Loneliness Together.

Research findings will inform future policies, programs and initiatives designed to assist when loneliness and/or social isolation contribute to a decline in health status, poor disease management or reduced rehabilitation in people with chronic disease.

Funding announced includes:

  • Almost $1.8 million for Dr Kate Filia (University of Melbourne) and team to develop resources to support mental health services in identifying and addressing social exclusion for people receiving treatment of their mental ill health.
  • Over $1.7 for Professor Catherine Mihalopoulos (Monash University) and her collaborators to work with a diverse team of consumer and community members to develop acceptable, targeted, equitable and cost-effective strategies for tackling loneliness and social isolation as part of a holistic approach to chronic disease management.
  • Over $780,000 for a team led by Professor Viviana Wuthrich (Macquarie University) for research to identify and target the psychological factors that lead to social isolation, loneliness and poorer outcomes for people with chronic disease.
  • Almost $1.3 million for Professor Peter Kelly (University of Wollongong) and collaborators to conduct a randomised controlled trial examining the effectiveness of a loneliness intervention, Groups for Belonging, to help people accessing alcohol and other drug treatment services to recover by re-establishing meaningful social relationships.

NHMRC’s TCR grant schemes are designed to stimulate research or build research capacity to address a specific health issue where there is a significant knowledge gap or unmet need.

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