Nineteen people attended the research translation webinar on Wednesday 25 May 2022 organised by the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, UNSW in collaboration with Sydney Local Health District (SLHD), South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) and Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN).

The main purpose of the webinar, facilitated by Tony Jackson from SESLHD Population and Community Health, was to: share the main research findings about social isolation and loneliness from the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary and Community Heath Cohort/Resource (CES-P&CH), and to discuss opportunities for research translation. The webinar included four presentations followed by small group discussions

 A/Prof Margo Barr summarised the latest findings from the research on social isolation and loneliness in people over 45 years using CES-P&CH. She stated that in 2020, 41% of the cohort were classified as socially isolated and 43% were classified as lonely; with 25% of the cohort were classified as both socially isolated and lonely. Those who were aged 60 plus, female, had private health insurance, were a parent, reported adequate physical activity, or consumed alcohol were less likely to be classified as socially isolated. Those who were aged 85 and over, female, or self-reported cancer were less likely to be classified as lonely.

 The three guest research translation presentations were by Sarah Steen, Team Leader of the Boarding house Outreach service from the Newtown Community Centre (delivered by Jude Page, SLHD), Gareth Wreford from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and Matina Kremisis, Cheryl Bruce and Hang Trinh from the Riverwood Community Centre (delivered by Jude Page, SLHD). Each presentation featured examples of programs addressing social isolation and loneliness, highlighting where they have been informed by research. 

 Participants then moved into ‘breakout rooms’ where they reflected on the presentations and how they could use evidence to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst people aged over 45 years.

 Some of the key points from the small group conversations were as follows:

  •  The presentations raised the issue of finding those who are experiencing social isolation or loneliness but are not reaching out for help. What can be done to connect them to appropriate services?
  • The research findings are different to overseas studies given that there is not much of a link between social isolation and health service use or mortality. Further research should be conducted to confirm whether these results are particular to Australia.
  • There is a disconnect between health and what is happening at a community level. The possibility of linking 45 and Up data with NDIS, My Aged Care and AIHW data should be explored to strengthen the link between health and community.
  • The presentations highlighted the impact that community groups have on social isolation and loneliness. This may be attributed to flexibility, involving re-thinking and re-allocating resources internally. 
  • Increasing access to services has the potential to reduce social isolation.

 Prof Mark Harris ended the session by highlighting the value of having forums that bring together academics, clinicians and policy makers where there are shared areas of interest and importance. He also thanked everyone for attending and hoped that we would be able to hold the next Forum face-to-face.