New systematic review on friendly visiting by a volunteer for reducing loneliness or social isolation in older adults


Within the Care Library at Home (In Dutch: Zorgbib aan Huis) project of the Belgian Red Cross, volunteers pay regular home visits to isolated older adults, while providing them with library materials. During their visits, volunteers also engage in friendly chats, playing games or reading a book together. By paying regular visits to isolated older adults, the Belgian Red Cross volunteers aim to combat the loneliness epidemic.

To provide a scientific base for these activities, CEBaP performed two evidence reviews in 2018. The first one investigated the effect of friendly (home) visiting by a volunteer on loneliness, whereas the second one looked at the impact of book reading on physical and mental health in older adults. 
The Campbell Collaboration, an international social science research network that produces high-quality, open and policy-relevant evidence syntheses, showed an interest in publishing these evidence reviews as full systematic reviews. 

The full systematic review on the effect of friendly visiting by a volunteer on loneliness and social isolation has now been published in Campbell Systematic Reviews. The full text can be accessed via our website, whereas the plain language summary can be found and downloaded via the website of The Campbell Collaboration.

In summary, in this review, we have identified nine randomized and four non‐randomized controlled trials that were relevant. At the moment, the evidence is very uncertain about the effect of friendly face‐to‐face visiting by a volunteer on improving loneliness, social isolation and wellbeing in older adults. Overall, the identified evidence is scarce and of very low certainty, which precludes any conclusions about the added value of friendly face‐to‐face visiting by a volunteer. More and larger high‐quality studies that are better designed and executed, and preferably conducted in various settings, are needed.