Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Children’s Healing Center involvement reduces social isolation and loneliness among immunocompromised children and their family members

Laura B. Luchies, PhD, Amanda L. Barbour, BS, Samantha R. Anderson, BA


Because they must avoid environments in which they are exposed to pathogens, children with a weakened immune system and their family members are at risk of experiencing social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation and loneliness predict many negative mental and physical health outcomes and are notable mortality risk factors. Therefore, the overall health of immunocompromised children and their family members would be promoted by avoiding exposure to pathogens while being afforded the opportunity to socialize and interact with others. The Children’s Healing Center (CHC) is a recreational facility designed to meet this crucial need of children, adolescents, and young adults with weakened immune systems and their family members. Findings from focus groups and surveys of people who have been involved with CHC, including immunocompromised adolescents and young adults and parents of immunocompromised children, provide initial evidence of CHC’s effectiveness at reducing social isolation and loneliness. By extension, CHC involvement would be expected to buffer the negative mental and physical health effects of social isolation and loneliness.


social isolation, loneliness, weakened immune system, immunocompromised

Full Text:



American Childhood Cancer Organization: US childhood cancer statistics. Available at Accessed April 15, 2019.

HRSA: Organ donation and children. US Government Information on Organ Donation and Transplantation. Available at Accessed April 15, 2019.

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Autoimmune diseases, 2012. Available at Accessed April 15, 2019.

Murray JS: Self-concept of siblings of children with cancer. Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 2001; 24(2): 85-94. doi:10.1080/01460860116709.

Kärrfelt HM, Berg UB, Lindblad FI: Renal transplantation in children: Psychological and donation-related aspects from the parental perspective. Pediatr Transplant. 2000; 4(4): 305-312. doi:10.1034/j.1399-3046.2000.00135.x.

Florian V, Krulik T: Loneliness and social support of mothers of chronically ill children. Soc Sci Med. 1991; 32(11): 1291-1296. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(91)90045-E.

Moody K, Meyer M, Mancuso CA, et al.: Exploring concerns of children with cancer. Support Care Cancer. 2006; 14 (9): 960-966. doi:10.1007/s00520-006-0024-y.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, et al.: Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: A metaanalytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015; 10(2): 227-237. doi:10.1177/1745691614568352.

Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT: Loneliness and pathways to disease. Brain Behav Immun. 2003; 17(1): 98-105. doi:10.1016/S0889-1591(02)00073-9.

Qualter P, Brown SL, Munn P, et al.: Childhood loneliness as a predictor of adolescent depressive symptoms: An 8-year longitudinal study. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010; 19(6): 493-501. doi:10.1007/s00787-009-0059-y.

Cacioppo JT, Hughes ME, Waite LJ, et al.: Loneliness as a specific risk factor for depressive symptoms: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses. Psychol Aging. 2006; 21(1): 140. doi:10.1037/0882-7974.21.1.140.

Hawkley LC, Preacher KJ, Cacioppo JT: Loneliness impairs daytime functioning but not sleep duration. Health Psychol. 2010; 29(2): 124. doi:10.1037/a0018646.

Gow AJ, Pattie A, Whiteman MC, et al.: Social support and successful aging: Investigating the relationships between lifetime cognitive change and life satisfaction. J Individ Differ. 2007; 28(3): 103-115. doi:10.1027/1614-0001.28.3.103.

Ekwall AK, Sivberg B, Hallberg IR: Loneliness as a predictor of quality of life among older caregivers. J Adv Nurs. 2005; 49(1): 23-32. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2004.03260.x.

House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D: Social relationships and health. Science. 1988; 241(4865): 540-545. doi:10.1126/science.3399889.

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB: Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010; 7(7): e1000316.

Pinquart M, Duberstein PR: Associations of social networks with cancer mortality: A meta-analysis. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2010; 75(2): 122-137. doi:10.1016/j.critrevonc.2009.06.003.

Uchino BN, Cacioppo JT, Kiecolt-Glaser JK: The relationship between social support and physiological processes: A review with emphasis on underlying mechanisms and implications for health. Psychol Bull. 1996; 119(3): 488. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.119.3.488.

Cacioppo JT, Hawkley LC, Crawford LE, et al.: Loneliness and health: Potential mechanisms. Psychosom Med. 2002; 64(3): 407-417.

Uchino BN: Social support and health: A review of physiological processes potentially underlying links to disease outcomes. J Behav Med. 2006; 29(4): 377-387. doi:10.1007/s10865-006-9056-5.

Knox SS, Adelman A, Ellison RC, et al.: Hostility, social support, and carotid artery atherosclerosis in The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study. Am J Cardiol. 2000; 86(10): 1086-1089. doi:10.1016/S0002-9149(00)01164-4.

Hawkley LC, Thisted RA, Masi CM, et al.: Loneliness predicts increased blood pressure: 5-Year cross-lagged analyses in middle-aged and older adults. Psychol Aging. 2010; 25(1): 132. doi:10.1037/a0017805.

Grant N, Hamer M, Steptoe A: Social isolation and stress-related cardiovascular, lipid, and cortisol responses. Ann Behav Med. 2009; 37(1): 29-37. doi:10.1007/s12160-009-9081-z.

Doane LD, Adam EK: Loneliness and cortisol: Momentary, day-to-day, and trait associations. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2010; 35(3): 430-441. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.08.005.

Turner-Cobb JM, Sephton SE, Koopman C, et al.: Social support and salivary cortisol in women with metastatic breast cancer. Psychosom Med. 2000; 62(3): 337-345. doi:10.1097/00006842-200005000-00007.

Lutgendorf SK, Sood AK, Anderson B, et al.: Social support, psychological distress, and natural killer cell activity in ovarian cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2005; 23(28): 7105-7113. doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.10.015.

Pressman SD, Cohen S, Miller GE, et al.: Loneliness, social network size, and immune response to influenza vaccination in college freshmen. Health Psychol. 2005; 24(3): 297. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.3.297.

Christiansen HL, Bingen K, Hoag JA, et al.: Providing children and adolescents opportunities for social interaction as a standard of care in pediatric oncology. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2015; 62(S5): S724-S749. doi:10.1002/pbc.25774.

Fern LA, Taylor RM, Whelan J, et al.: The art of age-appropriate care: Reflecting on a conceptual model of the cancer experience for teenagers and young adults. Cancer Nurs. 2013; 36(5): E27-E38. doi:10.1097/NCC.0b013e318288d3ce.

Gillard A, Watts CE: Program features and developmental experiences at a camp for youth with cancer. Child Youth Serv Rev. 2013; 35(5): 890-898. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2013.02.017.

Shama W, Lucchetta S: Psychosocial issues of the adolescent cancer patient and the development of the teenage outreach program (TOP). J Psychosoc Oncol. 2007; 25(3): 99-112. doi:10.1300/J077v25n03_06.

Rollins JA: The influence of two hospitals’ designs and policies on social interaction and privacy as coping factors for children with cancer and their families. J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 2009; 26(6): 340-353. doi:10.1177/1043454209339734.

Palmer L, Erickson S, Shaffer T, et al.: Themes arising in group therapy for adolescents with cancer and their parents. Int J Rehabil Health. 2000; 5(1): 43-54. doi:10.1023/A:1012959119398.

Thompson AL, Long KA, Marsland AL: Impact of childhood cancer on emerging adult survivors’ romantic relationships: A qualitative account. J Sex Med. 2013; 10: 65-73. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02950.x.

Vannatta K, Zeller M, Noll RB, et al.: Social functioning of children surviving bone marrow transplantation. J Pediatr Psychol. 1998; 23(3): 169-178. doi:10.1093/jpepsy/23.3.169.

D’Agostino NM, Edelstein K: Psychosocial challenges and resource needs of young adult cancer survivors: Implications for program development. J Psychosoc Oncol. 2013; 31(6): 585-600. doi:10.1080/07347332.2013.835018.

Woodgate RL: Social support in children with cancer: A review of the literature. J Pediatr Oncol Nurs. 1999; 16(4): 201-213. doi:10.1016/S1043-4542(99)90020-6.

Martiniuk A, Silva M, Amylon M, et al.: Camp programs for children with cancer and their families: Review of research progress over the past decade. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2014; 61(5): 778-787. doi:10.1002/pbc.24912.



  • There are currently no refbacks.