Effectiveness of a peer-based intervention on loneliness and social isolation of older Chinese immigrants in Canada: A randomized controlled trial

Daniel W. L. Lai*, Jia Li, Xiaoting Ou, Celia Y. P. Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)



Social isolation is a key concern for immigrant older adults. We examined the effectiveness of a peer-based intervention in reducing loneliness, social isolation, and improving psychosocial well-being with a sample of aging Chinese immigrants. 


Sixty community-dwelling older Chinese immigrants aged 65 and older were randomly assigned to an intervention group and a control group (n = 30 each) in a randomized control parallel trial design. Intervention group participants received an eight-week peer support intervention. Twenty-four volunteers aged 48 to 76 engaged in two-on-one peer support through home visits and telephone calls to provide emotional support, problem-solving support, and community resource sharing. Social workers who are not blinded to the group assignment measured the changes of both the intervention group and the control group participants in a range of psychosocial outcomes including three primary outcomes (loneliness, social support, barriers to social participation) and five secondary outcomes (depressive symptoms, anxiety, life satisfaction, happiness, and purpose in life). 


The 30 intervention group participants showed a statistically significant decrease in loneliness and increase in resilience when compared to the 30 control group participants. They reported fewer barriers to social participation, fewer depressive symptoms, increased life satisfaction, and happiness while no such improvements were observed in the control group. 


There is a need to further examine the use of peer-based interventions for both program effectiveness and delivery efficiency. In the era of population aging and increasing immigration, diverse aging adults can be trained to fill volunteer support roles via peer-based intervention approaches. 

Trial registration

ISRCTN, ISRCTN14572069, Registered 23 December 2019 – Retrospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number356
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Early online date21 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese aging immigrants
  • Loneliness
  • Peer-based intervention
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Social isolation
  • Social participation


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