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Empathy-oriented telephone programs benefit adults at risk of mental illness




February 23, 2021

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Kahlon and three other authors report a grant from the Episcopal Health Foundation during the course of the study. Other authors have not reported relevant financial disclosures.

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According to the results of a randomized clinical trial published in, the empathy-oriented telephone program provided by the layman improved the mental health of participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Psychiatry.

“In March 2020, we realized the challenges facing our clients at Meals on Wheels Central Texas (MOWCTX) due to the reduced number of contacts.” Maninder K. Carlon,PhD, Written by members of the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues. “Correspondingly, we designed a program that could be quickly spun up and deployed. Telephone programs include laymen who engage regularly with empathic intent through telephone calls with participants. Was functionally defined as prioritizing listening to and eliciting conversations from participants on selected topics. “

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Investigators aimed to determine if this telephone intervention had improved LonelyDepression and anxiety in adults at risk. Between July 6, 2020 and September 24, 2020, they recruited 240 adults and assigned them to receive or not call via block randomization. Participants aged 27-101, 63% 65+, 56% living alone, 79% female, 39% black or African American, 22% Hispanic or Latino, all at least one chronic I reported the disease. At enrollment and four weeks later, they used validated scales to measure loneliness, depression, and anxiety. In addition, the researchers performed an ITT analysis. They analyzed data from MOWCTX clients that meet service standards, such as returning home and expressing food needs. For intervention, 16 callers aged 17-23, who were briefly trained in empathic conversation skills, called 6-9 participants for the first 5 days, 4 weeks each day. It was. The client then chose whether to reduce calls to at least twice a week. The loneliness assessed by the 3-item UCLA loneliness scale and the 6-item DeJong Giervald loneliness scale served as a major result. Secondary results included depression as assessed by the Depression Personal Health Questionnaire, anxiety as assessed on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale, and self-assessed health as assessed by the Short-term Health Survey Questionnaire. ..

A total of 13 participants were lost due to follow-up in the intervention and control groups. For each post-evaluation difference between intervention and control after 4 weeks, researchers scored 1.1 on the UCLA loneliness scale (95% CI, 0.5-1.7) and De Jong (95% CI, 0.2 to 0.81) for loneliness. Pointed out an improvement of 0.32. 1.5 in the personal health questionnaire for depression (95% CI, 0.22-2.7) depressionIt is 1.8 on the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (95% CI, 0.44-3.2). The short-form health questionnaire survey showed no change in general physical health, but a 2.6 improvement in mental health (95% CI, 0.81-4.4).

“The use of the general caller, the deliberate and concise approach to training, and the use of ubiquitous phones have made the approach easily deployable and scalable,” writes Kahlon and colleagues.

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