School-based interventions to prevent anxiety, depression and conduct disorder in children and young people: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

Deborah M Caldwell, Sarah R Davies, Joanna C Thorn, Jennifer C Palmer, Paola Caro, Sarah E Hetrick, David Gunnell, Sumayya Anwer, José A López-López, Clare French, Judi Kidger, Sarah Dawson, Rachel Churchill, James Thomas, Rona Campbell, Nicky J Welton
Record ID 32018001598
Authors' objectives: Schools in the UK increasingly have to respond to anxiety, depression and conduct disorder as key causes of morbidity in children and young people. The objective was to assess the comparative effectiveness of educational setting-based interventions for the prevention of anxiety, depression and conduct disorder in children and young people.
Authors' results and conclusions: A total of 142 studies were included in the review, and 109 contributed to the network meta-analysis. Of the 109 studies, 57 were rated as having an unclear risk of bias for random sequence generation and allocation concealment. Heterogeneity was moderate. In universal secondary school settings, mindfulness/relaxation interventions [standardised mean difference (SMD) –0.65, 95% credible interval (CrI) –1.14 to –0.19] and cognitive–behavioural interventions (SMD –0.15, 95% CrI –0.34 to 0.04) may be effective for anxiety. Cognitive–behavioural interventions incorporating a psychoeducation component may be effective (SMD –0.30, 95% CrI –0.59 to –0.01) at preventing anxiety immediately post intervention. There was evidence that exercise was effective in preventing anxiety in targeted secondary school settings (SMD –0.47, 95% CrI –0.86 to –0.09). There was weak evidence that cognitive–behavioural interventions may prevent anxiety in universal (SMD –0.07, 95% CrI –0.23 to 0.05) and targeted (SMD –0.38, 95% CrI –0.84 to 0.07) primary school settings. There was weak evidence that cognitive–behavioural (SMD –0.04, 95% CrI –0.16 to 0.07) and cognitive–behavioural + interpersonal therapy (SMD –0.18, 95% CrI –0.46 to 0.08) may be effective in preventing depression in universal secondary school settings. Third-wave (SMD –0.35, 95% CrI –0.70 to 0.00) and cognitive–behavioural interventions (SMD –0.11, 95% CrI –0.28 to 0.05) incorporating a psychoeducation component may be effective at preventing depression immediately post intervention. There was no evidence of intervention effectiveness in targeted secondary, targeted primary or universal primary school settings post intervention. The results for university settings were unreliable because of inconsistency in the network meta-analysis. A narrative summary was reported for five conduct disorder prevention studies, all in primary school settings. None reported the primary outcome at the primary post-intervention time point. The economic evidence review reported heterogeneous findings from six studies. Taking the perspective of a single school budget and based on cognitive–behavioural therapy intervention costs in universal secondary school settings, the cost–consequence analysis estimated an intervention cost of £43 per student. There was weak evidence of the effectiveness of school-based, disorder-specific prevention interventions, although effects were modest and the evidence not robust. Cognitive–behavioural therapy-based interventions may be more effective if they include a psychoeducation component.
Authors' methods: This study comprised a systematic review, a network meta-analysis and an economic evaluation. The databases MEDLINE, EMBASE™ (Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands), PsycInfo® (American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, USA) and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) were searched to 4 April 2018, and the NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED) was searched on 22 May 2019 for economic evaluations. No language or date filters were applied. Randomised/quasi-randomised trials of universal or targeted interventions for the prevention of anxiety, depression or conduct disorder in children and young people aged 4–18 years were included. Screening was conducted independently by two reviewers. Data extraction was conducted by one reviewer and checked by a second. Intervention- and component-level network meta-analyses were conducted in OpenBUGS. A review of the economic literature and a cost–consequence analysis were conducted. The emphasis on disorder-specific prevention excluded broader mental health interventions and restricted the number of eligible conduct disorder prevention studies. Restricting the study to interventions delivered in the educational setting may have limited the number of eligible university-level interventions.
Authors' identified further reserach: Future trials for prevention of anxiety and depression should evaluate cognitive–behavioural interventions with and without a psychoeducation component, and include mindfulness/relaxation or exercise comparators, with sufficient follow-up. Cost implications must be adequately measured.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2021
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
DOI: 10.3310/phr09080
MeSH Terms
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • School Mental Health Services
Organisation Name: NIHR Public Health Research programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
Contact Name:
Contact Email:
Copyright: Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.