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

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: