Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 413–447 | Cite as

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


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.


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



We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of our land and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present. Thank you to Tonya Jones for her assistance in data extraction.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Lo
    • 1
  • Jamie Waterland
    • 1
  • Paula Todd
    • 2
  • Tanvi Gupta
    • 3
  • Margaret Bearman
    • 4
  • Craig Hassed
    • 5
  • Jennifer L. Keating
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysiotherapyMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Subject Librarian, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.South Eastern Private HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.HealthPEER Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  5. 5.Department of General PracticeMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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