Our objective was to assess the effects of mental health interventions for children, adolescents, and adults not quarantined or undergoing treatment due to COVID-19 infection.
We searched 9 databases (2 Chinese-language) from December 31, 2019, to March 22, 2021. We included randomised controlled trials of interventions to address COVID-19 mental health challenges among people not hospitalised or quarantined due to COVID-19 infection. We synthesized results descriptively due to substantial heterogeneity of populations and interventions and risk of bias concerns.
We identified 9 eligible trials, including 3 well-conducted, well-reported trials that tested interventions designed specifically for COVID-19 mental health challenges, plus 6 other trials with high risk of bias and reporting concerns, all of which tested standard interventions (e.g., individual or group therapy, expressive writing, mindfulness recordings) minimally adapted or not specifically adapted for COVID-19. Among the 3 well-conducted and reported trials, 1 (N = 670) found that a self-guided, internet-based cognitive-behavioural intervention targeting dysfunctional COVID-19 worry significantly reduced COVID-19 anxiety (standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.74, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.58 to 0.90) and depression symptoms (SMD 0.38, 95% CI, 0.22 to 0.55) in Swedish general population participants. A lay-delivered telephone intervention for homebound older adults in the United States (N = 240) and a peer-moderated education and support intervention for people with a rare autoimmune condition from 12 countries (N = 172) significantly improved anxiety (SMD 0.35, 95% CI, 0.09 to 0.60; SMD 0.31, 95% CI, 0.03 to 0.58) and depressive symptoms (SMD 0.31, 95% CI, 0.05 to 0.56; SMD 0.31, 95% CI, 0.07 to 0.55) 6-week post-intervention, but these were not significant immediately post-intervention. No trials in children or adolescents were identified.
Interventions that adapt evidence-based strategies for feasible delivery may be effective to address mental health in COVID-19. More well-conducted trials, including for children and adolescents, are needed.
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