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What is the impact of structural and cultural factors and interventions within educational settings on promoting positive mental health and preventing poor mental health: a systematic review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma Geijer Simpson, Liam SpencerORCiD, Professor Eileen KanerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Mental health (MH) difficulties are on the increase among children and young people (CYP). Evidence has shown that educational settings contain both risk and protective factors for MH. This review investigated which structural and cultural factors and interventions within educational settings promote positive MH and prevent poor MH in 4–18 year olds. Searches were conducted in PsychINFO, Embase, ERIC, ASSIA and British Education Index, and reference lists from key studies and relevant systematic reviews were hand-searched. Intervention, cohort, and qualitative studies were included. Of the 62 included papers, 36 examined cultural factors (30 social/relational and six value-related) while 12 studies examined structural factors (eight organisational and four physical) and 14 studies examined multiple factors. There was strong evidence for the impact of positive classroom management techniques, access to physical activity, and peer mentoring on student MH. Studies examining the impact of positive school culture, teacher training in MH and parent involvement in school MH activities also found predominantly positive results for student MH, albeit the evidence was of lower quality or from a low number of studies. Few studies explicitly examined the impact of interventions on MH inequalities; those that did indicated limited if any reduction to inequalities. A very small number of studies suggested that interventions targeting those at risk of poor MH due to socioeconomic factors could successfully improve wellbeing and reduce depression, anxiety and behavioural problems. Studies exploring the effect of management and leadership strategies within schools, policies, and aspects of the physical environment other than green space were scarce or absent in the literature. This review highlights the need to consider the ways in which educational settings are organised, the culture that is created and the physical space in order to improve the MH of CYP.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Troy D, Anderson J, Jessiman PE, Albers PN, Williams JG, Sheard S, Geijer-Simpson E, Spencer L, Kaner E, Limmer M, Viner R, Kidger J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: BMC Public Health

Year: 2022

Volume: 22

Issue: 524

Online publication date: 17/03/2022

Acceptance date: 01/03/2022

Date deposited: 18/03/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2458

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s12889-022-12894-7


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