Does social prescribing work? Read the evidence

Evidence on Social Prescribing

How effective is social prescribing? Our briefings and visual guides give a clear overview of existing evidence. They point to the success of social prescribing initiatives. And they identify where we need to do more research. You can come back to this page to download up-to-date evidence whenever you need.

  • Building the economic case for social prescribing

    Building the economic case for social prescribing

    There are a growing number of robust evaluations on the economic impact of social prescribing. Findings from studies using five different methods show that social prescribing can have a positive economic impact, including reducing pressure on the NHS a delivering return on investment.

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Children and young people's social prescribing

    There is emerging evidence to show the benefits of social prescribing for children and young people, particularly for those aged over 17, on personal and mental wellbeing, including loneliness. 

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Older People

    As the proportion of older people in our population continues to rise, it is important that the health and social care system is able to meet their needs. Social prescribing can support older people with poverty in five main ways: supporting food insecurity; supporting fuel poverty; supporting financial management; supporting digital inclusion; supporting social vulnerability.

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Arts, culture and creativity

    The evidence consistently shows a positive link between better health and wellbeing and time spent taking part in arts, heritage and cultural activities. The UK is considered a leader in 'Arts on Prescription' and there is a growing demand for home and community based arts and culture related activities. 

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Physical Activity

    A referral to take part in physical activity can lead to a wide range of benefits, including improvements in physical and mental health, increased patient empowerment, and a reduction in health service use and costs.

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Financial, social and legal social prescribing

    A key part of social prescribing is to help people deal with practical issues. Support with finance, social welfare and legal advice has been shown to have a positive impact on health and wellbeing. 

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review


    Nature-based social prescribing can have positive effects on health and wellbeing. The reduction in loneliness and development of a nature connection was particularly found in people likely to be experiencing health

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Measuring outcomes for social prescribing

    Social prescribing can deliver a wide range of positive outcomes for people who are experiencing many different social and health problems, for example by reducing loneliness and enhancing mental and physical health. What’s more, it can improve social connections and overall wellbeing too. However, more research is needed to demonstrate its long-term impact.  

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    The economic impact of social prescribing

    Social prescribing can save costs and reduce pressure on primary care. The evidence about its impact on secondary care is inconclusive, but some studies do report reduced secondary care use. Evidence suggests the return on investment is favourable.  

  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Funding models

    Current evidence shows a range of different funding models for social prescribing. These reflect that funding can come from the private, public, and charitable sectors. The most effective funding approaches seem to involve a range of local partners working together. It is important to acknowledge the challenges this can present.  


  • Briefing and Rapid Evidence Review

    Who is and isn’t being referred to social prescribing?

    Social prescribing can engage with people of all age groups. Reasons for referral often include mild-to-moderate mental health difficulties, loneliness and social isolation. Studies of show some demographic differences, with nearly twice as many women than men currently using these services. Not many studies report on the use of social prescribing by children under the age of 16 


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