Our current understanding of the efficacy of psychological interventions in improving mental states of wellbeing is incomplete. This study aimed to overcome limitations of previous reviews by examining the efficacy of distinct types of psychological interventions, irrespective of their theoretical underpinning, and the impact of various moderators, in a unified systematic review and meta-analysis. Four-hundred-and-nineteen randomized controlled trials from clinical and non-clinical populations (n = 53,288) were identified for inclusion. Mindfulness-based and multi-component positive psychological interventions demonstrated the greatest efficacy in both clinical and non-clinical populations. Meta-analyses also found that singular positive psychological interventions, cognitive and behavioural therapy-based, acceptance and commitment therapy-based, and reminiscence interventions were impactful. Effect sizes were moderate at best, but differed according to target population and moderator, most notably intervention intensity. The evidence quality was generally low to moderate. While the evidence requires further advancement, the review provides insight into how psychological interventions can be designed to improve mental wellbeing.
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The authors thank colleagues at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, for their support during the creation of this review, S. Brown and N. May, for their help in crafting the search strategy. This work was supported by a grant by the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Human Behaviour thanks Pete Harris, Laura Anne Weiss and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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van Agteren, J., Iasiello, M., Lo, L. et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of psychological interventions to improve mental wellbeing. Nat Hum Behav 5, 631–652 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-021-01093-w
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