Video calls for reducing social isolation and loneliness in older people: a rapid review -







The current COVID‐19 pandemic has been identified as a possible trigger for increases in loneliness and social isolation among older people due to the restrictions on movement that many countries have put in place. Loneliness and social isolation are consistently identified as risk factors for poor mental and physical health in older people. Video calls may help older people stay connected during the current crisis by widening the participant’s social circle or by increasing the frequency of contact with existing acquaintances.
The primary objective of this rapid review is to assess the effectiveness of video calls for reducing social isolation and loneliness in older adults. The review also sought to address the effectiveness of video calls on reducing symptoms of depression and improving quality of life.


Video conferencing in general has altered communication in most industries. Ranging from social media (facetime, facebook live, hangouts) to telehealth, and webinars it has allowed for remote learning in a time where social distancing is mandatory due to the novel corona virus. It will assist in school closures and allow for continuing education for K-12 and higher education.


Based on this review there is currently very uncertain evidence on the effectiveness of video call interventions to reduce loneliness in older adults. The review did not include any studies that reported evidence on the effectiveness of video call interventions to address social isolation in older adults. The evidence regarding the effectiveness of video calls for outcomes of symptoms of depression and quality of life were imprecise and at high risk of bias due to study limitations.



Implications for research

Given the very small number of studies included in this review (and considering the current pandemic and associated physical distancing measures) further studies testing the effectiveness of video calls for loneliness or isolation in older adults are needed. Beyond the limited number of studies to date, attention is also needed towards the rigour within studies given the current low participant numbers observed and lack of pre‐registered designs and analysis plans. Finally, more diverse stakeholder groups and settings are needed in future studies, given the current homogeneity of populations with a strong focus on nursing home residents observed. Specifically, future studies should target older adults across a range of settings who are demonstrably lonely or socially isolated, or both, to determine whether video call interventions are effective in a population in which these outcomes are in need of improvement

Limitations of the study include its focus on nursing home patients, who have other confounding conditions such as stroke, respiratory disease, vision deficits, and other comorbidity.  It ignores other aged populations, assisted living, aging at home, and other activities.

Video calls for reducing social isolation and loneliness in older people: a rapid review