How can loneliness and social isolation be reduced among migrant and minority ethnic people? Systematic, participatory review of programme theories, system processes and outcomes

A person walking through a forest with a plastic bag that says bargains for life

Funded by NIHRFunded by the UK National Institute for Health Research under the Public Health Research Board (Reference number PHR 16/08/44) 

 What are the aims of this project?

The main aim of this project is to summarise the existing evidence on the causes of, and potential solutions to, unwanted social isolation and loneliness among people from migrant and minority ethnic backgrounds. The project takes a broad approach, viewing social isolation and loneliness as the products of the complex social settings within which people live.

 Why is this important?

Loneliness and social isolation are recognised as major public health issues. Both have been found to be associated with a range of physical and mental health problems. Recent research addressing the negative effects of loneliness and social isolation on the health and wellbeing of individuals has paid particular attention to the circumstances of older people, pregnant and postpartum women and adolescents.

While loneliness and social isolation affect people from all sections of society, migrants and people from minority ethnic backgrounds face particular risks of social isolation and loneliness. As the diversity of the UK population continues to grow in terms of the range of ethnic identities and the number of people seeing themselves as non-White British, it becomes important that public health evidence and practice reflects this diversity and addresses the needs of our multi-ethnic society.

 How will the research be carried out?

We will undertake a review of the existing literature and research evidence around loneliness and social isolation among migrant and minority ethnic groups. This desk-based work will take place alongside the use of a participatory approach, involving consultations with key stakeholders and members of some of our local migrant and minority ethnic communities within England.

Our literature review work will consist of an effectiveness review; and a theory-driven review. The effectiveness review will draw together earlier research that has looked at whether initiatives that have been introduced work to reduce levels of loneliness and social isolation among migrant and minority ethnic people. The theory-driven review, on the other hand, will go beyond more traditional review methods to understand the actual causal processes that may be linked to changes in levels of loneliness and social isolation among our populations of interest in varied settings. We will look beyond narrowly focused interventions aimed at individuals to explore the wider social processes that impact upon isolation and loneliness.


October 2017 – March 2019

Who is undertaking the research?

Professor Sarah Salway, Dr Louise Preston, Dr Andrew Booth, Dr Liz Such, Dr Katie Powell, Dr Maria Zubair, Dr Jean Hamilton (University of Sheffield) &

Professor Raghu Raghavan (De Montfort University)

Professor Christina Victor (Brunel University London)

  How are stakeholders being engaged?

The project involves close collaboration between university researchers, community workers, lay experts from migrant and minority ethnic backgrounds and public health practitioners and policy makers. The community consultation aspect of the project, in particular, involves significant community engagement. This comprises three consultation panels being organised at three different sites within England, each focussing on different subgroups of migrants and minority ethnic people and taking place twice during the course of the project. Furthermore, a dissemination workshop will be arranged towards the end of the project for a diverse group of around 30 stakeholder participants in order to promote engagement with and testing out of the recommendations and conclusions from the project.

What will be the outputs from the study?

Presentations and papers from the project will be listed here.

How can loneliness and social isolation be reduced among migrant and minority ethnic people? Systematic, participatory review of programme theories, system processes and outcomes. Sarah Salway, Louise Preston, Maria Zubair, Elizabeth Such, Jean Hamilton, Andrew Booth, Raghu Raghavan, Christina Victor

PROSPERO 2017 CRD42017077378 Available from:

Inequitable access to services for older people

Funded by the NIHR School for Public Health Research as part of the Ageing Well Programme of research.

What are the aims of this project?

The project investigates the extent to which older people receive inequitable access to effective and cost-effective health interventions, both clinical and public health. A range of conditions and health interventions which are effective in both younger and older people will be examined.

We will focus on the potential impact of interventions in older populations on inequalities in health outcomes. We will explore how such inequalities arise and seek to identify ways to intervene to prevent them.

Social inequalities in health among older populations seem to be widening and this work package will explore one potentially important cause with a view to identifying ways to reduce such inequalities.

Why is this important?

It is important because the health of older people will be adversely affected if they fail to receive health interventions which improve the quality and quantity of life. Moreover, age-discrimination is something which has been found fairly extensively in the past, but should not be occurring now, not least because recent age-equality legislation has been introduced.

How will the research be carried out?

A number of sub-studies are being undertaken. Currently, the research carried out in ScHARR includes two sub-studies:

  • A literature review of existing published evidence about inequality in access to health interventions in older people:
  • A study using existing data on utilisation of smoking cessation services in older people.


From November 2013 until March 2017

Who is undertaking the research?

In Sheffield

Sarah Salway, Nick Payne, Melanie Rimmer, Hannah Jordan

How are stakeholders being engaged?

  1. Stakeholder consultation events; and
  2. Engagement with PPI representatives on the ScHARR SPHR Advisory Group.

What will be the outputs from the study?

  • Presentations at scientific conferences:
    Early findings were presented at the British Society for Gerontology Annual Conference in Newcastle, UK in July 2015.
  • Publications in Journals

Reports and presentations to lay audiences including stakeholders

Relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course

Co-Investigators: Dr Sue Baxter, Professor Paul Bissell, Dr Hannah Fairbrother, Professor Liddy Goyder, Professor Sarah Salway, Professor Jeremy Wight, Helen Woods

Funder: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

This project explores  the relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course. It aims to provide an evidence base that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation can use in developing its antipoverty strategies, and wider work on the role of individuals and their relationships in reducing poverty. The primary focus is on providing a clear picture of the current evidence and a greater understanding of how poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression are connected. For the purposes of this study, poverty is defined as the situation where an individual’s resources, especially material ones, are substantially below their needs.


  • to conduct a multidisciplinary systematic review of the relationship between poverty and stress, low level anxiety and depression across the life course.


  • Use innovative review techniques to manage diverse evidence sources.
  • Develop a logic model to provide a concise summary of the available evidence and explore the implications for effective policy and practice.
  • Consultation with community and professional stakeholders to ensure validity and relevance.

Image courtesy of Christian using a Creative Commons license

Identifying promising innovations to enhance equity and efficiency in care for new migrant populations

Funder: Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

Aims of this project

  1. To undertake a mapping and formative evaluation of innovative practice at the primary care-community interface related to meeting the needs of new migrant populations
  2. To identify a promising package of innovation that warrants further refinement and testing
  3. To develop research capacity among primary care colleagues and strengthen research-practice linkages to support knowledge translation.

Why is this important?

Access to primary care has been identified as one of the key means through which health inequity can be reduced (Browne et al 2012). New migrant populations may be marginalised from the process of service access for several reasons. Service response to new migrant population growth at the local, primary care level often requires innovation, transgression from standard models of service delivery and commissioning and service responsiveness, including new ways of engaging with under-served populations. The purpose of the research is to map these innovations and provide case studies of promising practice.

How will the research be carried out?

The formative review will include a broad scoping exercise in the first instance followed by an in-depth case study approach to mapping innovation. It will be carried out in partnership with primary care and community based organisations to develop a Local Innovation Partnership. Principles of co-production and participatory methods will be adopted.


September 2015-March 2016

Who is undertaking the research?

Liz Such, Liz Walton, Sarah Salway, Janet Harris and Brigette Colwell

How are stakeholders being engaged?

In local case study sites, local practitioners will be engaged in a Local Innovation Partnership. Local residents will consulted about service provision through Patient and Public Engagement activities.

What will be the outputs from the study?

A Summary and Mini Casebook will be produced to demonstrate how and why local innovations can enhance new migrants’ access to primary care.