A meta-analysis of loneliness and use of primary health care

Fuschia Sirois (Corresponding), Janine Owens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Loneliness is a growing public health concern that is associated with a range of negative health outcomes. The extent to which loneliness may also be associated with greater use of primary health care remains unclear. The present meta-analysis aimed to address this gap by quantifying research on the association of loneliness to primary health care use. The database searches yielded 23 eligible studies with 25 effects, total N = 113,639. A random effects meta-analysis revealed a small positive average effect size (ravg = .094; 95% CI [.07, .12]) between loneliness and the use of primary care that increased in magnitude as the proportion of females in the samples increased. Studies that used objective measures of primary care use yielded effects that were significantly larger than those using self-report measures. The effects were robust to differences in age and the type of health-care systems across studies, and to whether the loneliness scale was single versus multi-item. The findings from this first comprehensive meta-analysis of the association of loneliness with use of primary care indicate that people who experience loneliness make a greater number of visits to primary-care practitioners. This evidence highlights the importance of providing primary-care practitioners with adequate resources to help patients who are lonely, and the practical impact of loneliness on health-care use when viewed at the population level. Further research is needed to understand the factors and processes that might explain why people who feel lonely use primary health-care more frequently as suggested by the current findings.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth psychology review
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Loneliness
  • physician visits
  • primary care

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