Psychological interventions for depression in Chinese university students: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Fu, Z., Zhou, S., Burger, H., Bockting, C. L. H. & Williams, A. D., 1-Feb-2020, In : Journal of Affective Disorders. 262, p. 440-450 11 p.

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  • Zhongfang Fu
  • Sijia Zhou
  • Huibert Burger
  • Claudi L H Bockting
  • Alishia D Williams

Background: University students in China are vulnerable to depression with a high estimated prevalence. It is currently unknown which types of psychological interventions are being delivered to treat depression in this population and whether they are effective. Therefore, a systematic review was conducted to address this issue.

Methods: We searched records in English and Chinese databases up to January 2019.

Results: From 2,739 records, we identified 39 randomized controlled trails (RCTs) and 54 non-RCTs. A range of psychological interventions were identified including cognitive behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy, and local interventions. Hedge's g pooled effect size of 23 comparisons from 21 RCTs (N = 858) compared to a control group (N = 802) was 1.08 (95% CI: 0.72 to 1.45). Heterogeneity was moderate with I-2 = 47 (95% CI: 14 to 68). Type of control group was significantly associated with the effect size (p = 0.039). Comparisons between the intervention condition and the 'no intervention' condition yielded a higher effect size (Hedges' g = 1.38, 95% CI: 0.89 to 1.87) than comparisons between the intervention condition and the 'usual care/control' condition (Hedges' g = 0.56, 95% CI 0.08 to 1.05). No other significant differences based on the study characteristics were observed.

Limitations: Publication bias and quality of inclusions.

Conclusions: Collectively, there is evidence that psychological interventions for depression in Chinese university students are effective as compared to control groups, although the effects merit further examination by research of higher quality. Innovations in treatment delivery could facilitate wider dissemination of evidence-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-450
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date10-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2020


  • Meta-analysis, University students, Depression, Psychological interventions, China, COLLEGE-STUDENTS, MENTAL-DISORDERS, PREVALENCE, BENEFITS, OUTCOMES, BIAS

ID: 109363940