Over the past year, many of us have struggled through feelings of isolation and loneliness because of COVID-19 restrictions and enforced physical distancing to prevent virus transmission.
This has resulted in accompanying feelings of loneliness and anxiety for many.
A new study recently publishedTrusted Source in JAMA Psychiatry found that a layperson-delivered, empathy-oriented telephone call program could reduce feelings of depression, and anxiety, while improving the general mental health of study participants, within 4 weeks.
“We were partnering with Meals on Wheels of Central Texas already, and when COVID-19 struck we realized the increased mental health concerns of their members,” corresponding author Maninder K. Kahlon, PhD, associate professor in the department of population health at the University of Texas at Austin, told Healthline.
Kahlon said her team quickly designed a program and tested it rigorously to confirm that they could see improvements on “clinically-relevant scales.”
“We needed to prove to ourselves that the intervention had the effects we hypothesized,” she emphasized.
From July 6 to September 24, 2020, researchers recruited and followed up with 240 adults assigned to receive calls or no calls (the control group). They were between ages 27 to 101, with more than half 65 years or older.
Loneliness, depression, and anxiety were measured at the beginning of the study and then after 4 weeks.
Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted. Participants received calls in their homes or wherever they might be when the call was made.
The study included Meals on Wheels clients in Central Texas who matched their service criteria, which included being homebound and expressing a need for food.
The callers were between 17 and 23 years old and trained in empathetic conversational techniques prior to the study.
Each caller contacted between 6 and 8 participants daily for the first 5 days, after which participants could choose to reduce the frequency, but to no fewer than 2 calls per week.
Read the rest of this article on Heathline here.