Ways to Wellness: A social prescription pathway to address social isolation and experiences of loneliness

Last updated 10 January 2024
Ways to Wellness: A social prescription pathway to address social isolation and experiences of loneliness

According to the Australian Loneliness report, 1 in 4 Australians are experiencing loneliness, with more than half of those surveyed feeling lonely on 1 or more days during a typical week.

Social prescribing is a non-medical approach to help mitigate the poor mental and physical health outcomes that can result from being socially isolated or experiencing loneliness.

Social prescribing offers health care providers assistance with connecting their patients to community services and social activities that can address unmet social needs.

About the program

Ways to Wellness is an innovative social prescribing program to help connect people experiencing social isolation and loneliness to meaningful groups and activities within the community. The program is provided for free by the Mt Gravatt Community Centre, and is available for people 16 years and older.

The Ways to Wellness program can benefit people who:

  • experience social isolation and loneliness
  • are new to the area
  • have lost touch with family or friends
  • experience barriers to getting out and about
  • feel anxious meeting new people or trying new things
  • don’t know about available social activities in the community.

Evaluation results: How social prescribing can benefit your patients

Ways to Wellness is an organisational participant of the 18-month evaluation of social prescribing in Queensland conducted by the University of Queensland. The evaluation found around 10% of patients presenting at general practice account for 30% to 50% of total appointments. The data indicates these 'frequent attenders' often feel dissatisfied with medical services due to unmet social needs, among which loneliness and social isolation have been identified as key.

The results of the social prescribing evaluation found the following outcomes at the 18-month time period:

  • loneliness ratings had reduced 16% from baseline
  • loneliness measured via the ULS-8 scale had significantly decreased by 10%
  • 22% reduction in feelings of distress compared to baseline
  • rating of overall health improved by 22% from baseline for social prescribing clients
  • increased social trust was maintained among social prescribing clients
  • wellbeing had an overall improvement of 9%.

Qualitative interviews with Link Workers and social prescribing clients further identified 3 key components of social prescribing that addressed psychosocial barriers:

  1. addressing social barriers
  2. finding a ‘fit’ with others
  3. rebuilding a sense of self.

The following account from a Ways to Wellness client captures the 3 components of social prescribing through their experience of the program:

I am in craft group now and that’s fantastic, I have also joined a sewing group and will be starting a mosaic class on Monday. Before I was doing nothing, absolutely nothing, since joining [the groups] I have felt more confident in myself, happy to get out of the four walls of my house. I had not done anything since 2013, just been inside my house living with chronic pain, and the pain is nearly level 10 pain. […] With being around people you just don’t even think of the pain as much, it gets your mind off things [….] I highly recommend it. It's, it's not as scary as it seems to meet new people.

How to refer your patients to the Ways to Wellness program

The process for referring to the Ways to Wellness program is easy. Once a client has been identified as meeting the program criteria the referral can be made online.

Once the referral is received, a Link Worker will make direct contact with your patient and arrange a suitable time for them to come into the Mount Gravatt Community Centre for an intake and assessment.

Through the intake and assessment, the Link Worker will explore your patient’s current concerns, their health, wellbeing and independence, activities, and interests. This discussion leads to the generation of wellbeing goals and then in partnership the patient and Link Worker develop an action plan.

More information

Read more about the program on the Ways to Wellness website: https://waystowellness.org.au/

If you have any questions about Ways to Wellness or social prescribing, please contact linkworker@mgcci.org.au.