13 July 2023

Over $5.5 million in targeted funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) will be shared across four research teams 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 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 or worsening of their health status.

'These research projects are responding to needs in our community and their results will help drive improvements in chronic disease management and rehabilitation,' says Professor Kelso, NHMRC CEO.

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

'Outcomes from this targeted research will produce the evidence needed to underpin policies and programs both inside and outside the health sector that address the health impacts of social isolation and loneliness,' Professor Kelso says.

Funding announced today includes:

  • Almost $1.8 million for Dr Kate Fila (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 illness
  • Over $1.7 million 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.

Projects funded today listed in order of Application ID:
Chief Investigator Title Administering Institution Budget
Prof Viviana Wuthrich Targeting mechanisms underlying loneliness in chronic conditions Macquarie University $787,880
Prof Catherine Mihalopoulos Towards a holistic priority setting approach for chronic disease management to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Australia Monash University $1,703,440
Dr Kate Fila Sincere: Developing resources to support Socially INClusivE caRE for mental ill-health  University of Melbourne $1,783,247
Prof Peter Kelly Groups for Belonging: a parallel cluster randomised controlled trial of a group-based loneliness intervention for people attending treatment for alcohol or substance use disorders University of Wollongong $1,290,845
Total $5,565,412