Peer Support Services Improve Depressive Symptoms

Peer support proves better than usual care alone, comparable to group psychotherapy

FRIDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Peer support interventions decrease symptoms of depression more than usual care alone, and at least as much as group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), according to a meta-analysis published in the January/February issue of General Hospital Psychiatry.

Paul N. Pfeiffer, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate whether peer support interventions are more effective at reducing symptoms of depression than usual care or psychotherapy. The researchers reviewed a total of 14 studies, involving 1,170 participants, with a focus on identifying changes in depressive symptoms between peer support interventions and either usual care alone (seven studies, 869 participants), or group CBT (seven studies, 301 participants).

The researchers found that, compared to usual care alone, peer support interventions were significantly better at reducing depression symptoms. There was no significant difference between group CBT and peer support interventions.

"Given the high level of functional burden imposed by depression worldwide, peer support for depression should also be studied as a potentially low-cost intervention in primary care or other settings where more established but costly depression services are unavailable," the authors write.

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