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Many interventions have been developed to promote respect and social inclusion among older people, but the evidence on their impacts on health has not been synthesised. This systematic review aims to appraise the state of the evidence across the quantitative and qualitative literature.
Eligible studies published between 1990 and 2015 were identified by scanning seven bibliographic databases using a pre-piloted strategy, searching grey literature and contacting experts. Studies were included if they assessed the impact (quantitatively) and/or perceived impact (qualitatively) of an intervention promoting respect and social inclusion on the physical or mental health of community-residing people aged 60 years and older. Titles and abstracts were screened for eligibility by one reviewer. A second reviewer independently screened a 10% random sample. Full texts were screened for eligibility by one reviewer, with verification by another reviewer. Risk of bias was assessed using standardised tools. Findings were summarised using narrative synthesis, harvest plots and logic models to depict the potential pathways to health outcomes.
Of the 27,354 records retrieved, 40 studies (23 quantitative, 6 qualitative, 11 mixed methods) were included. All studies were conducted in high and upper middle-income countries. Interventions involved mentoring, intergenerational and multi-activity programmes, dancing, music and singing, art and culture and information-communication technology. Most studies (n = 24) were at high or moderate risk of bias. Music and singing, intergenerational interventions, art and culture and multi-activity interventions were associated with an overall positive impact on health outcomes. This included depression (n = 3), wellbeing (n = 3), subjective health (n = 2), quality of life (n = 2), perceived stress and mental health (n = 2) and physical health (n = 2). Qualitative studies offered explanations for mediating factors (e.g. improved self-esteem) that may lead to improved health outcomes and contributed to the assessment of causation.
Whilst this review suggests that some interventions may positively impact on the health outcomes of older people, and identified mediating factors to health outcomes, the evidence is based on studies with heterogeneous methodologies. Many of the interventions were delivered as projects to selected groups, raising important questions about the feasibility of wider implementation and the potential for population-wide benefits.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO registration number CRD42014010107