Currently, loneliness is not systematically assessed or treated by clinicians; however, due to its potential adverse effects on health outcomes, the assessment and treatment of loneliness could be integrated into routine clinical care. The drawbacks here though are that loneliness is a subjective and emotional experience, assessment tools in clinical practice remain problematic and appropriate and effective treatment paradigms are still to be developed and tested.
From a public health perspective, the adequate training of health care providers to perceive, detect, and respond to loneliness among patients should be encouraged. This may require a shift in public perceptions of loneliness. For example, many patients do not think of loneliness as a health issue to be discussed with their physicians. Likewise, physicians may have difficulties addressing loneliness due to its clinical assessment and a lack of evidence-based therapeutic options. In fact, we do not know how to best target loneliness, and we do not know if targeting loneliness would improve health outcome as appropriately designed trials have not been conducted.
Future research should better characterise the risk and protective factors of loneliness, as well as identifying effective therapeutic options.