Researchers win big to investigate social frailty

Wednesday 17 June 2020

As the world faces a new normal for social interaction off the back of COVID-19, a group of researchers from Mater Research and The University of Queensland have been given the green light to look into methods of increasing healthy social interaction in adults.  

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has granted $461,088 over 5 years to The QLD MIND Project—a partnership between Mater Research and The University of Queensland hosting an extensive multidisciplinary team made up of researchers specialising in treating neurocognitive difficulties.

The research project is set to investigate factors that impact individuals’ low levels of social engagement – referred to as social frailty – which is widely recognised as one of the most troubling and potentially devastating threats to healthy adult ageing.

Specifically looking into how age and age-related changes affect the ability to perceive, interpret and process social information, the research team will delve into how these factors impact one’s resilience levels and their level of risk to ageing norms.   

Professor Liisa Laakso from Mater Research said with an ageing population, finding ways to promote successful and healthy ageing is an economic, social and humanitarian goal for our society.

“Enhancing older adults' resilience to social frailty should generate significant and far-reaching benefits, including greater independence of ageing Australians, and reduced burden on health and welfare support infrastructure,” Prof Laakso said.

“Understanding the factors that predict social frailty is the first fundamental step in addressing this threat to successful ageing.”

“This project will provide critically needed, evidence-based information to make a meaningful difference into how our generations age into the future.”

The study will also use this data to create tailored resources and tools designed to combat risks and boost resilience to social frailty. 

“Our team will work to make these resources readily available to some of our most vulnerable ageing Australians but for the wider community education, they will have enormous outreach potential.”

The project will take an interdisciplinary approach, integrating the skills and expertise of psychologists in the fields of developmental psychology and social psychology, as well as clinicians working in the fields of geriatrics, allied health and neuroscience

Lead researchers of this project are Prof Julie Henry, Dr Sarah Grainger, Prof Bill von Hippel, Prof Ruth Hubbard and A/Prof Eric Vanman of The University of Queensland, and Dr Daniel Schweitzer and Prof Liisa Laakso of Mater Research.

To learn more about Mater Research projects visit the website:


About The QLD Mind Project

The Queensland Multidisciplinary Initiative for Neurocognitive Disorders (QLD MIND)
Project was founded in 2018. It is a multi-site translational research project that
represents an alliance between The University of Queensland, The Mater Group and
The Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH). At present, the group consists of more than
seventy researchers, clinicians, academics, and postgraduate research students.

The QLD MIND Project was established in recognition of the fact that nearly all disorders that affect the brain have the potential to disrupt social cognition, with a vision to understand the factors that drive resilience and risk and use these findings to develop evidence-based treatments that make a real difference to people’s everyday lives.