Academic Stress Interventions in High Schools: A Systematic Literature Review

Academic Stress Interventions in High Schools: A Systematic Literature Review

Jagiello, T. Belcher, J. Neelakandan, A. Boyd, K. Wuthrich, V. M.
Child Psychiatry & Human Development
The experience of academic stress is common during high school and can have significant negative consequences for students' educational achievement and wellbeing. High school students frequently report heightened levels of school-related distress, particularly as they approach high-stakes assessments. Programs designed to reduce or prevent academic stress are needed, and their delivery in school settings is ideal to improve treatment access. The current review aimed to examine the effectiveness of high school-based programs in reducing or preventing academic stress. A systematic search returned 31 eligible studies across 13 countries. Programs were categorised according to intervention type, format, and facilitator. Results showed that the methodological quality of most studies was poor, and many used an inactive control group. As predicted by theories of academic stress, the strongest evidence was for programs grounded in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). There was evidence that both universal and targeted approaches can be beneficial. The unique implementation issues for these two formats are discussed. Most programs were delivered by psychologists and were generally effective, but almost all of these were CBT programs. A smaller proportion of programs delivered by teachers were effective. Therefore, future studies should evaluate the implementation success of programs to improve the rate of effective delivery by school staff. Overall, the field will benefit from more randomised controlled trials with comparisons to active control groups, larger sample sizes and longer-term follow-ups.

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Type of intervention

Preventive- and Promotive Health Interventions

Early Intervention


Mental Health Problems and Disorders

Anxiety Problems

Anxiety and Anxiousness


Development and Life Coping Skills

School Performance


Psychological Treatments

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Therapy


Psychoeducational Interventions

The organization of interventions

School/Preschoolbased Interventions

Age group

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

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