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Health and Wellbeing Innovation Commission Inquiry: Social Connections and Loneliness

As a variety of factors lead to increasing longevity and an ageing population, the demand for robust health and care services continues to grow. Innovation in the areas of health and wellbeing will be crucial to ensure that such services remain sustainable, address needs efficiently, and contribute to positive experiences in later life.

In order to foster developments in this respect, ILC-UK established the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Commission with the support of the Audley Group and EY. The Commission brings together current evidence in this area, generating thought leadership through a critical exploration of the opportunities and barriers with respect to diffusing new ideas and innovations across four themes relevant for later life and across the life course: retirement communities and care homes, the built environment, physical and mental health, and social connections.

The fourth and final inquiry examined social connections and loneliness. Social connections are a fundamental aspect of people’s lives, impacting on expressions of identity as well as individual health and wellbeing. Policy interest in this area has also grown in recent years, particularly with respect to addressing the issues of social isolation and loneliness. It is therefore timely that we reflect on the available evidence around how innovation can help foster, harness, and improve social connections to the benefit for all people in an ageing society.

Expert contributions during the fourth inquiry session of the commission, combined with our own research of available literature and examples in this field, have informed this report to explore the current state of affairs around innovations in social connections and loneliness and their role to influence health and wellbeing in later life.