Aims: Loneliness has an adverse impact on mental health, yet it is often overlooked in psychological services. To inform clinical practice, we provide an overview of research hotspots on loneliness and mental health, the ‘state of the art’ in assessment and treatment, and workforce implications. Methods: Narrative synthesis. Results: Loneliness occurs in all age groups, with peaks in younger and older adults. It is a well-established risk factor for mental ill-health, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders, and other problems prompting people to seek psychological care. A variety of psychometrically sound self-report measures are available for assessment purposes, though some lack structural or cross-cultural validity. The most promising interventions use cognitive-behavioural therapy to change maladaptive social cognitions. Recent studies are focused on identifying mechanisms of change, the role of social networks, and the use of digital technologies to augment treatment. The stigma of loneliness can prevent clients and healthcare professionals from talking openly about it, but the best strategies for combating loneliness stigma are unclear. Conclusion: Loneliness and mental ill-health are mutually reinforcing; hence, loneliness should be routinely considered in clinical practice. Psychological interventions are moderately effective at alleviating loneliness but further research and practice-based evaluation of solutions for loneliness is needed.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Johanna Badcock, David Preece, Anna Badcock