Group interventions to promote mental health in health professional education: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Kristin Lo, Jamie Waterland, Paula Todd, Tanvi Gupta, Margaret Bearman, Craig Hassed, Jennifer L. Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Effects of interventions for improving mental health of health professional students has not been established. This review analysed interventions to support mental health of health professional students and their effects. The full holdings of Medline, PsycINFO, EBM Reviews, Cinahl Plus, ERIC and EMBASE were searched until 15th April 2016. Inclusion criteria were randomised controlled trials of undergraduate and post graduate health professional students, group interventions to support mental health compared to alternative education, usual curriculum or no intervention; and post-intervention measurements for intervention and control participants of mindfulness, anxiety, depression, stress/distress or burnout. Studies were limited to English and short term effects. Studies were appraised using the PEDro scale. Data were synthesised using meta-analysis. Four comparisons were identified: psychoeducation or cognitive-behavioural interventions compared to alternative education, and mindfulness or relaxation compared to control conditions. Cognitive-behavioural interventions reduced anxiety (−0.26; −0.5 to −0.02), depression (−0.29; −0.52 to −0.05) and stress (0.37; −0.61 to −0.13). Mindfulness strategies reduced stress (−0.60; −0.97 to −0.22) but not anxiety (95% CI −0.21 to 0.18), depression (95% CI −0.36 to 0.03) or burnout (95% CI −0.36 to 0.10). Relaxation strategies reduced anxiety (SMD −0.80; 95% CI −1.03 to −0.58), depression (−0.49; −0.88 to −0.11) and stress (−0.34; −0.67 to −0.01). Method quality was generally poor. Evidence suggests that cognitive-behavioural, relaxation and mindfulness interventions may support health professional student mental health. Further high quality research is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-447
Number of pages35
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Cognitive-behavioural
  • Health professional student
  • Mental health
  • Meta-analysis
  • Mindfulness
  • Psychoeducation
  • Relaxation
  • Systematic review

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