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The economic costs of loneliness: a review of cost-of-illness and economic evaluation studies

  • Cathrine MihalopoulosEmail author
  • Long Khanh-Dao Le
  • Mary Lou Chatterton
  • Jessica Bucholc
  • Julianne Holt-Lunstad
  • Michelle H. Lim
  • Lidia Engel
Review

Abstract

Purpose

Loneliness and social isolation can occur at all stages of the life course and are recognized as a global health priority. The aim of this study was to review existing literature on the economic costs associated with loneliness and social isolation as well as evidence on the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent or address loneliness and social isolation.

Methods

A bibliographic database search was undertaken in Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Embase, supplemented by a grey literature search and a reference list search. Papers were included that were published in English language in peer-reviewed literature in the past 10 years, reporting costs of loneliness and/or social isolation or economic evaluations of interventions whose primary purpose is to reduce loneliness and/or social isolation, including return on investment (ROI) or social return on investment (SROI) studies.

Results

In total, 12 papers were included in this review, consisting of four cost-of-illness studies, seven economic evaluations and five ROI or SROI studies. Most studies were conducted in the UK and focused on older adults. Due to the inconsistent use of the terms loneliness and social isolation, as well as their measurement, the true economic burden can only be estimated to a certain extent and the comparability across economic evaluations and ROI studies is limited.

Conclusions

The paucity of evidence that is available primarily evaluating the economic costs of loneliness indicates that more research is needed to assess the economic burden and identify cost-effective interventions to prevent or address loneliness and social isolation.

Keywords

Loneliness Social isolation Cost–benefit analysis Cost of illness Costs and cost analysis Return on investment 

Notes

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

127_2019_1733_MOESM1_ESM.docx (121 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 121 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019
corrected publication 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  3. 3.Centre for Mental Health, Iverson Health Innovation InstituteSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia

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