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Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2011 Jan-Feb;33(1):29-36. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Nov 13.

Efficacy of peer support interventions for depression: a meta-analysis.

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Health Services Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



To assess the efficacy of peer support for reducing symptoms of depression.


Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL and CENTRAL databases were searched for clinical trials published as of April 2010 using Medical Subject Headings and free text terms related to depression and peer support. Two independent reviewers selected randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared a peer support intervention for depression to usual care or a psychotherapy control condition. Meta-analyses were conducted to generate pooled standardized mean differences (SMD) in the change in depressive symptoms between study conditions.


Seven RCTs of peer support vs. usual care for depression involving 869 participants were identified. Peer support interventions were superior to usual care in reducing depressive symptoms, with a pooled SMD of -0.59 (95% CI, -0.98 to -0.21; P=.002). Seven RCTs with 301 total participants compared peer support to group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There was no statistically significant difference between group CBT and peer interventions, with a pooled SMD of 0.10 (95% CI, -0.20 to 0.39, P=.53).


Based on the available evidence, peer support interventions help reduce symptoms of depression. Additional studies are needed to determine effectiveness in primary care and other settings with limited mental health resources.

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