School-based socio-emotional learning programs to prevent depression, anxiety and suicide among adolescents: A global cost-effectiveness analysis

Yong Yi Lee (Leading Author), S. Skeen, G. J. Melendez-Torres, C. A. Laurenzi, M. Van Ommeren, A. Fleischmann, C. Servili, C. Mihalopoulos, D. Chisholm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Aims Preventing the occurrence of depression/anxiety and suicide during adolescence can lead to substantive health gains over the course of an individual person's life. This study set out to identify the expected population-level costs and health impacts of implementing universal and indicated school-based socio-emotional learning (SEL) programs in different country contexts. Methods A Markov model was developed to examine the effectiveness of delivering universal and indicated school-based SEL programs to prevent the onset of depression/anxiety and suicide deaths among adolescents. Intervention health impacts were measured in healthy life years gained (HLYGs) over a 100-year time horizon. Country-specific intervention costs were calculated and denominated in 2017 international dollars (2017 I$) under a health systems perspective. Cost-effectiveness findings were subsequently expressed in terms of I$ per HLYG. Analyses were conducted on a group of 20 countries from different regions and income levels, with final results aggregated and presented by country income group - that is, low and lower middle income countries (LLMICs) and upper middle and high-income countries (UMHICs). Uncertainty and sensitivity analyses were conducted to test model assumptions. Results Implementation costs ranged from an annual per capita investment of I$0.10 in LLMICs to I$0.16 in UMHICs for the universal SEL program and I$0.06 in LLMICs to I$0.09 in UMHICs for the indicated SEL program. The universal SEL program generated 100 HLYGs per 1 million population compared to 5 for the indicated SEL program in LLMICs. The cost per HLYG was I$958 in LLMICS and I$2,006 in UMHICs for the universal SEL program and I$11,123 in LLMICs and I$18,473 in UMHICs for the indicated SEL program. Cost-effectiveness findings were highly sensitive to variations around input parameter values involving the intervention effect sizes and the disability weight used to estimate HLYGs. Conclusions The results of this analysis suggest that universal and indicated SEL programs require a low level of investment (in the range of I$0.05 to I$0.20 per head of population) but that universal SEL programs produce significantly greater health benefits at a population level and therefore better value for money (e.g., less than I$1,000 per HLYG in LLMICs). Despite producing fewer population-level health benefits, the implementation of indicated SEL programs may be justified as a means of reducing population inequalities that affect high-risk populations who would benefit from a more tailored intervention approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere46
Number of pages11
JournalEpidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2023


  • adolescent
  • anxiety disorders
  • cost-effectiveness analysis
  • depressive disorder
  • economic model
  • prevention
  • school health services
  • suicide

Cite this