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Effectiveness of digital technology interventions to reduce loneliness in adults: a protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Syed Ghulam Sarwar Shah1,2,
  2. David Nogueras3,
  3. Hugo van Woerden4,5,
  4. Vasiliki Kiparoglou1,6
  1. 1 NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford, UK
  2. 2 Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 DNM Consulting, London, UK
  4. 4 NHS Highland, Assynt House, Inverness, UK
  5. 5 Centre for Health and Science, University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness, UK
  6. 6 Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Syed Ghulam Sarwar Shah; Sarwar.Shah{at}


Introduction Loneliness is an emerging public health problem that is associated with social, emotional, mental and physical health issues. The application of digital technology (DT) interventions to reduce loneliness has significantly increased in the recent years. The effectiveness of DT interventions needs to be assessed systematically.

Methods and analysis Aim: To undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of DT interventions to reduce loneliness among adults.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: PubMed, Medline, CINAHL, EMBASE and Web of Science.

Publication period: 1 January 2010 to 31 July 2019.

Inclusion criteria: Primary studies involving the application of DT interventions to reduce loneliness, involving adult participants (aged ≥18 years), follow-up period ≥3 months and published in the English language.

Synthesis and meta-analysis: A narrative summary of the characteristics of included studies, findings by the type of DT intervention, and the age, gender and ethnicity of participants. A meta-analysis by the study design and duration of follow-up and determination of random effects size using the RevMan V.5 software.

Quality of evidence and bias: Quality of evidence assessed the RoB V.2.0 (revised tool for Risk of Bias in randomized trials) and ROBINS-I (Risk Of Bias in Non-randomized Studies—of Interventions) tools for randomised control trials and non-randomised studies, respectively. Heterogeneity between studies will be determined by the I2 and Cochran’s Q statistics and publication bias checked with funnel plots and the Egger’s test.

Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval was not required for this protocol. The findings will be disseminated through journal articles and conference presentations.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42019131524

  • Loneliness
  • Digital technology
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Effectiveness
  • Adults

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the planning, conception and design of the study. SGSS drafted the manuscript, which was reviewed by DN, HvW and VK. SGSS undertook preliminary literature searches in the PubMed with the help from Bodleian Health Care Libraries, University of Oxford. All authors have read, reviewed, contributed in revising and approved the final manuscript. SGSS is the guarantor. VK supervised the project and obtained research funding for paying the open access article publication charges.

  • Funding This research was funded/supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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