02:49pm Saturday 19 October 2019

Social group workshops mean you’ll never walk alone

A School of Psychology team led by Professor Catherine Haslam and Dr Tegan Cruwys has launched a free intervention program to improve people’s friendship circles.

Professor Haslam said the course was for anyone who felt isolated or needed to develop new relationships, or strengthen existing ones.

“There is a wealth of evidence that social connectedness has a strong influence on both mental and physical health,” Professor Haslam said.

Groups 4 Health consists of five 90-minute sessions, and assists by providing people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to identify with social groups.”

Trials involving 83 participants in 2014 showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety, stress and perceived loneliness.

“Traditional support groups are only successful to the extent that they are meaningful to –and valued by – those taking part,” Professor Haslam said.

“Our evidence-based program enables participants to pursue and meet social needs independently.

“That way, as people’s needs, interests and motivations change, they have the ability to provide their own solutions to a shift in circumstance.”

Groups 4 Health aims to remove much of the stigma associated with clinical diagnosis and allows participants to identify how they can maximise existing friendships and build new ones.

Previous research shows significantly greater longevity for people with good social relationships, compared to those with poor relationships.

Those with no social group involvement have a significantly higher chance of relapsing into depression (41 per cent) than those who engage in three or more social circles (15 per cent).

For more information, or to participate in the group sessions, email groups4health@uq.edu.au or call Melissa Chang, 07 3149 3946.

Media: Professor Catherine Haslam +617 3346 7565, c.haslam@uq.edu.au; UQ communications Robert Burgin, + 61 7 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364, r.burgin@uq.edu.au.

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