Sheffield University study finds connection between loneliness and the demand for GP appointments

Research led by the University of Sheffield has shed light on the links between loneliness and the demand for primary health care services such as GP appointments.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 9:25 am

The findings follow a review of over 100,000 people around the globe by Dr Fuschia Sirois from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology.

People involved noted how lonely they felt, and their visits to GPs were either self-reported or tracked by medical records.

By conducting a meta-analysis of this data, it was revealed that people who are suffering from loneliness make more GP visits in comparison to people who are not lonely.

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Research led by the University of Sheffield has shed light on the links between loneliness and the demand for primary health care services.

Dr Fuschia Sirois, who works in health and social psychology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Public health policies aimed at improving health and reducing healthcare utilisation tend to focus mainly on poor lifestyle and health behaviours, but social connection factors such as loneliness receive much less attention.

“Our findings put the spotlight on the impact that loneliness can have on healthcare utilisation and suggest that addressing the issue of loneliness at both the societal and the community levels could improve health and reduce the use of health services.

“When we find ways to reduce loneliness, we improve the physical and mental health of people in society, and reduce the costs to the NHS.”

It is currently unclear whether people suffering from loneliness are making more GP visits because of the negative health effects that have been linked to loneliness or whether it is because they simply want someone to talk to as a way to combat feeling lonely.

Research is currently being undertaken by Dr Sirois to uncover the reasons behind the findings.

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