Social isolation in mental health: A conceptual and methodological review

Brynmor Lloyd-Evans Completed   2015


Social isolation and related terms such as loneliness have been increasingly discussed in the field of mental health. However, there is a lack of conceptual clarity and consistency of measurement of these terms and understanding of overlaps.


This scoping review aimed to provide a clear conceptual framework for social isolation and related terms, and to propose well established measures in the field of mental health for each conceptual domain.


The review used an iterative strategy of expert consultation and literature searching, following an established process for conceptual reviews. A multidisciplinary group of senior academics was consulted both before and after literature searching to identify relevant terms, conceptual papers or recommended measures.

The authors searched the Web of Science database using terms suggested by experts and then identified further relevant studies through review articles and through reading full text or reference lists of included studies. A narrative synthesis was conducted.


The review provides definitions and brief explanations of relevant conceptual terms from the literature, and proposes a conceptual model with five domains to include all elements of current conceptualisations. These five domains are:

  • social network: quantity
  • social network: structure
  • social network: quality
  • appraisal of relationships: emotional
  • appraisal of relationships: resources

It also identified some well-developed measures suitable for assessing each of the five conceptual domains or covering multi-domains.

The review proposes a conceptual model to distinguish and fit all concepts relating to social isolation. The developed model can help researchers and intervention developers to identify expected outcomes of interventions precisely and choose the most appropriate measures for use in mental health settings.

Social isolation in mental health: A conceptual and methodological review
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