The Feasibility and Acceptability of LISTEN for Loneliness

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Purpose—The purpose of this paper is to present the initial feasibility and acceptability of LISTEN (Loneliness Intervention using Story Theory to Enhance Nursing-sensitive outcomes), a new intervention for loneliness. Loneliness is a significant stressor and known contributor to multiple chronic health conditions in varied populations. In addition, loneliness is reported as predictive of functional decline and mortality in large samples of older adults from multiple cultures. Currently, there are no standard therapies recommended as effective treatments for loneliness. The paucity of interventions has limited the ability of healthcare providers to translate what we know about the problem of loneliness to active planning of clinical care that results in diminished loneliness. LISTEN was developed using the process for complex intervention development suggested by the Medical Research Council (MRC) [1] [2]. Methods—Feasibility and acceptability of LISTEN were evaluated as the first objective of a longitudinal randomized trial which was set in a university based family medicine center in a rural southeastern community in Appalachia. Twenty-seven older adults [(24 women and 3 men, mean age: 75 (SD 7.50)] who were lonely, community-dwelling, and experiencing chronic illness, participated. Feasibility was evaluated by tracking recruitment efforts, enrollment, attendance to intervention sessions, attrition, and with feedback evaluations from study personnel. Acceptability was assessed using quantitative and qualitative evaluation data from participants. Results—LISTEN was evaluated as feasible to deliver with no attrition and near perfect attendance. Participants ranked LISTEN as highly acceptable for diminishing loneliness with participants requesting a continuation of the program or development of additional sessions. Conclusions—LISTEN is feasible to deliver in a primary healthcare setting and has the potential to diminish loneliness which could result in improvement of the long-term negative known sequelae of loneliness such as hypertension, depression, functional decline, and mortality. Feedback from study participants is being used to inform future trials of LISTEN with consideration for developing additional sessions. Longitudinal randomized trials are needed in varied populations to assess long-term health and healthcare system benefits of diminishing loneliness, and to assess the potential scalability of LISTEN as a reimbursable treatment for loneliness.