Social Prescribing: A new way of prescribing

According to the “Loneliness Study” one in five Australians rarely or never have someone to talk to.  According to an article published in the guardian, “Loneliness is increasingly being recognised around the world as a significant health and social issue.


In Britain – where more than 9 million people report often or always feeling lonely – a minister for loneliness was appointed in January.


In Australia, the Victorian upper house MP Fiona Patten described loneliness as an issue so severe it requires government intervention, proposing a minister for loneliness be appointed to reduce stigma and address growing social isolation.”


What is social prescribing?

This is an innovative way of addressing the broader social aspects of wellbeing and health, which include social, economic and environmental factors. Research suggests we underestimate how these factors relate to health determinants:

  • According to a 2015 meta-analysis published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, social isolation is associated with a 29% rise in mortality.
  • Evidence suggests 20% of all GP visits are for social issues primarily
  • The forthcomingAnnals of Behavioural Medicine paper states that low social group connectedness is associated with greater use of GP services.


How does social prescribing work?

Doctors reviewing complex medical patients in a primary care setting can integrate sources of community support into their treatment plan, hence reducing the epidemic of loneliness, social isolation and associated mental health issues including depression, self-harm and suicide.  Social prescribing has a primary aim to build local social connections for patients through:

  • Local sports
  • Local arts groups
  • Local cooking groups
  • Local religious groups
  • Local walking groups
  • Local literacy groups
  • Local housing support
  • Local gardening groups
  • Local exercise classes
  • Local employment, debt and legal advice
  • Local voluntary organisations


What does the evidence say?

There is emerging evidence that suggests social prescribing has positive wellbeing and health outcomes.  This is supported in a recent systematic review of social prescribing schemes in the UK, which showed:

  • Heightened self-esteem and self-confidence
  • An improved sense of control and empowerment
  • Improvements in psychological and mental wellbeing
  • Decreased levels of depression and anxiety


There has been one randomised controlled trial reviewed which showed only 4mths follow-up, but this aligned with the above findings of helping individuals to have a more positive and optimistic view of their life.  But more research into social prescribing is required.


Click the image for the full list to display – each is hyperlinked across to the relevant website.


For a full list of all of the groups, resources and support we have collated for living well with chronic pain, click here

Want to learn more about social prescribing

  1. Black Dog Institute: Social prescribing: linking patient’s with non-medical support
  2. Pilkington, K., Loef. M., and Polley, M. (2017) Searching for real-world effectiveness of health care innovation: scoping study of social prescribing for diabetes.
  3. Thomson, L.J., Camic, P.M. and Chatterjee, H.J. (2015) Social Prescribing. A review of community referral schemes.
  4. News RACGP: Social prescribing: Has the time come for this idea?
  5. News RACGP: Helping reduce mental health stigma through Men’s Shed’s
  6. News RACGP: Joining the social circle in rural Australia
  7. News RACGP: Fostering connections to overcome loneliness
  8. News RACGP: How group membership can help combat depression
  9. News RACGP: Australian mental health spend reaches $9 billion
  10. College of Medicine: Social Prescribing, can it increase chance of employment
  11. Book: The new psychology of health. By Catherine Haslam, Jolanda Jetten, Tegan Cruwys, Genevieve Dingle, S. Alexander Haslam


Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash