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Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Dec 15;136(12):1517-23.

Social intervention and the elderly: a randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Leicester, Leicester Royal Infirmary, England.


A randomized controlled trial was set up in 1985 to test the effect of social intervention over 3 years among elderly people, aged 75 and above, living alone. The sampling frame was the age/sex register of a large group practice of 12 general practitioners serving the town of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England, with a list size of approximately 32,000 patients. A total of 523 elderly people living alone in 1985 were identified, interviewed, and randomized into experimental and control groups. A lay worker offered the experimental group (n = 261) individual packages of support that aimed at enhanced social contacts. The outcome measures, approximately 3 years later in 1988, were mortality; changes in physical status; demand for medical, paramedical, social, and voluntary services; and changes in a number of subjective variables (morale, loneliness, and self-perceived health). No significant differences were found for any of the variables with the exception of self-perceived health status, where the experimental group showed significantly greater improvements than did the control group. More importantly, half the elderly in this sample declined several offers of help.

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