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The efficacy of psychological interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders in university students: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Barnett, P; Arundell, L-L; Saunders, R; Matthews, H; Pilling, S; (2021) The efficacy of psychological interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders in university students: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders , 280 (A) pp. 381-406. 10.1016/j.jad.2020.10.060. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Mental health problems are becoming increasingly prevalent among students and adequate support should be provided to prevent and treat mental health disorders in those at risk. / Methods: This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the efficacy of psychological interventions for students, with consideration of how adaptions to intervention content and delivery could improve outcomes. We searched for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of interventions in students with or at risk of mental health problems and extracted data for study characteristics, symptom severity, wellbeing, educational outcomes, and attrition. Eighty-four studies were included. / Results: Promising effects were found for indicated and selective interventions to treat anxiety disorders, depression and eating disorders. PTSD and self-harm data was limited, and did not demonstrate significant effects. Relatively few trials adapted intervention delivery to student-specific concerns, and overall adapted interventions showed no benefit over non-adapted interventions. There was some suggestion that adaptions based on empirical evidence and provision of additional sessions, and transdiagnostic models may yield some benefits. / Limitations: The review is limited by the often poor quality of the literature and exclusion of non-published data. / Conclusions: Interventions for students show benefit though uncertainty remains around how best to optimise treatment delivery and content for students. Additional research into content targeting specific underlying mechanisms of problems and transdiagnostic approaches to provision could be promising avenues for further research.

Type: Article
Title: The efficacy of psychological interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental health disorders in university students: A systematic review and meta-analysis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2020.10.060
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2020.10.060
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Systematic review, College, University, Student, Mental Health, Psychological interventions
UCL classification: UCL
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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10113821
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