, Volume 10, Issue 11, pp 2209–2224 | Cite as

Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Prevention of Depressive Symptoms in University Students: a Meta-analytic Review

  • Liang MaEmail author
  • Yingnan Zhang
  • Zeshi Cui



The aim of this meta-analytic review was to determine the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for prevention of depressive symptoms in university students as well as to explore potential moderators that predict the magnitude of MBIs’ effects.


Twenty-five randomized controlled trials were identified eligible for inclusion of the current meta-analytic review. Pooled effect sizes were calculated using random-effects models by summarizing the differences of pre-post changes in depressive symptoms between the intervention and control conditions. Effect sizes of universal, selective, and indicated MBIs were assessed. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were used to explore potential moderators of the intervention effects.


MBIs were found effective for prevention of depressive symptoms in university students. The overall mean effect size was 0.52, which was considered moderate. Universal, selective, and indicated MBIs were all associated with significant reductions in depressive symptoms, with effect sizes of 0.41, 0.44, and 0.88. Larger effects emerged for participants from indicated MBIs, studies with small sample sizes, MBIs with medium length, and MBIs delivered on a weekly basis.


This meta-analytic review reinforces the evidence to support the use of MBIs for prevention of depressive symptoms in university students. In particular, our analyses suggest a range of moderators associated with MBIs’ effects. Further studies with methodological rigor are needed to confirm and extend the findings of this meta-analytic review.


Mindfulness Depressive symptoms University students Meta-analysis Review 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to Dr. Hao Sun from the Department of Epidemiology of the First Hospital of China Medical University for her helpful comments.

Author Contributions

LM: designed and executed the study, performed the statistical analyses, and finished the initial version of this manuscript. YZ: collaborated in the process of literature reviewing, data coding, and statistical analyses. ZC: collaborated in the writing and revision of the final manuscript. All the authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Liang Ma and Yingnan Zhang contributed equally to this work.


This study was funded by the Department of Education of Liaoning Province (grant number 2014 [108]).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

12671_2019_1192_MOESM1_ESM.docx (31 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 31 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The First Hospital of China Medical UniversityShenyangChina
  2. 2.School of PharmacyChina Medical UniversityShenyangChina

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