Where to go from Here? An Exploratory Meta-Analysis of the Most Promising Approaches to Depression Prevention Programs for Children and Adolescents

Sarah E. Hetrick, Georgina R. Cox, Sally N. Merry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To examine the overall effect of individual depression prevention programs on future likelihood of depressive disorder and reduction in depressive symptoms. In addition, we have investigated whether Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and other therapeutic techniques may modify this effectiveness. Methods: This study is based on and includes the trial data from meta-analyses conducted in the Cochrane systematic review of depression prevention programs for children and adolescents by Merry et al. (2011). All trials were published or unpublished English language randomized controlled trials (RCTs) or cluster RCTs of any psychological or educational intervention compared to no intervention to prevent depression in children and adolescents aged 5–19 years. Results: There is some evidence that the therapeutic approach used in prevention programs modifies the overall effect. CBT is the most studied type of intervention for depression prevention, and there is some evidence of its effectiveness in reducing the risk of developing a depressive disorder, particularly in targeted populations. Fewer studies employed IPT, however this approach appears promising. To our knowledge, this is the first study to have explored how differences in the approach taken in the prevention programs modify the overall treatment effects of prevention programs for children and adolescents. Conclusions: More research is needed to identify the specific components of CBT that are most effective or indeed if there are other approaches that are more effective in reducing the risk of future depressive episodes. It is imperative that prevention programs are suitable for large scale roll-out, and that emerging popular modes of delivery, such as online dissemination continue to be rigorously tested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4758-4795
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Children
  • Depressive disorder
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prevention

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