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Psychological, social, and welfare interventions for torture survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Hamid, A; Patel, N; Williams, ACDC; (2019) Psychological, social, and welfare interventions for torture survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLOS Medicine , 16 (9) , Article e1002919. 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002919. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Torture and other forms of ill treatment have been reported in at least 141 countries, exposing a global crisis. Survivors face multiple physical, psychological, and social difficulties. Psychological consequences for survivors are varied, and evidence on treatment is mixed. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate the benefits and harms of psychological, social, and welfare interventions for torture survivors. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We updated a 2014 review with published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for adult survivors of torture comparing any psychological, social, or welfare intervention against treatment as usual or active control from 1 January 2014 through 22 June 2019. Primary outcome was post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms or caseness, and secondary outcomes were depression symptoms, functioning, quality of life, and adverse effects, after treatment and at follow-up of at least 3 months. Standardised mean differences (SMDs) and odds ratios were estimated using meta-analysis with random effects. The Cochrane tool was used to derive risk of bias. Fifteen RCTs were included, with data from 1,373 participants (589 females and 784 males) in 10 countries (7 trials in Europe, 5 in Asia, and 3 in Africa). No trials of social or welfare interventions were found. Compared to mostly inactive (waiting list) controls, psychological interventions reduced PTSD symptoms by the end of treatment (SMD -0.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.52 to -0.09, p = 0.005), but PTSD symptoms at follow-up were not significantly reduced (SMD -0.34, 95% CI -0.74 to 0.06, p = 0.09). No significant improvement was found for PTSD caseness at the end of treatment, and there was possible worsening at follow-up from one study (n = 28). Interventions showed no benefits for depression symptoms at end of treatment (SMD -0.23, 95% CI -0.50 to 0.03, p = 0.09) or follow-up (SMD -0.23, 95% CI -0.70 to 0.24, p = 0.34). A significant improvement in functioning for psychological interventions compared to control was found at end of treatment (SMD -0.38, 95% CI -0.58 to -0.18, p = 0.0002) but not at follow-up from only one study. No significant improvement emerged for quality of life at end of treatment (SMD 0.38, 95% CI -0.28 to 1.05, p = 0.26) with no data available at follow-up. The main study limitations were the difficulty in this field of being certain of capturing all eligible studies, the lack of modelling of maintenance of treatment gains, and the low precision of most SMDs making findings liable to change with the addition of further studies as they are published. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show evidence that psychological interventions improve PTSD symptoms and functioning at the end of treatment, but it is unknown whether this is maintained at follow-up, with a possible worsening of PTSD caseness at follow-up from one study. Further interventions in this population should address broader psychological needs beyond PTSD while taking into account the effect of multiple daily stressors. Additional studies, including social and welfare interventions, will improve precision of estimates of effect, particularly over the longer term.

Type: Article
Title: Psychological, social, and welfare interventions for torture survivors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002919
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002919
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright: © 2019 Hamid et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Post-traumatic stress disorder, Depression, Quality of life, Metaanalysis, Social welfare, Systematic reviews, Culture, Welfare (social security)
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Division of Psychiatry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10083168
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