Nicole Valtorta has been successful in winning an NIHR Doctoral Fellowship for a project entitled “Developing effective interventions to prevent or address the adverse effects of loneliness and isolation on the health of older people”. Nicole will look at loneliness and social isolation, which are common among older people. Research suggests that lonely and socially isolated people are more likely to experience ill health and early death, but there is uncertainty over how to address this. This project will inform the design of a complex intervention to prevent or tackle the adverse effects of loneliness and isolation on the health and well-being of older people.
The project will run for three years and its main aims are to investigate the nature and direction of the relationship between loneliness, social isolation and older adults' physical and mental health; to characterise the population health burden associated with loneliness and social isolation in older adults; to identify population groups at greatest risk of experiencing ill health due to being lonely or isolated; and to identify populations groups at greatest risk of experiencing loneliness or social isolation as a result of ill health.
The project will be formed from three distinct parts, firstly, a systematic review will be conducted, to identify and synthesise evidence on the relationship between loneliness, isolation and older people's health. This will be followed by data analysis from two longitudinal panel surveys, “Understanding Society” and “the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing”, to characterise the relationship between loneliness, social isolation and health over time. Finally, a deliberative workshop will be organised with stakeholders, to develop the interpretation of Nicole’s findings and incorporate the views of older people into her work.
"After university, I became a research assistant in public health. During this time I developed a keen interest in older adults' health and their social relationships. Tackling loneliness and social isolation in the elderly has the potential to improve older adults' quality of life, and I am really looking forward to spending the next three years studying this topic in depth.
A PhD is a great opportunity to train in research methodology, and thanks to the range of modules offered by the Health Sciences department I have been able to enrol on courses such as 'Systematic reviews' and 'Health and social statistics'. These will equip me with the necessary skills to carry out my doctoral project and future research. I also feel privileged to be able to draw on the expertise of staff and students who are pursuing similar research, whom I can learn from and exchange ideas with."
I feel privileged to be able to draw on the expertise of staff and students who are pursuing similar research, whom I can learn from and exchange ideas with.