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Non-pharmaceutical primary care interventions to improve mental health in deprived populations: a systematic review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Louise TannerORCiD, Dr Josephine Wildman, Akvile StoniuteORCiD, Madeleine StillORCiD, Kate Bernard, Rhiannon Green, Claire EastaughORCiD, Dr Katie ThomsonORCiD, Dr Sarah SowdenORCiD



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


Background Common mental health disorders are especially prevalent among people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Non-pharmaceutical primary care interventions, such as social prescribing and collaborative care, provide alternatives to pharmaceutical treatments for common mental health disorders, but little is known about the impact of these interventions for patients who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.Aim To synthesise evidence for the effects of non-pharmaceutical primary care interventions on common mental health disorders and associated socioeconomic inequalities. Design and setting Systematic review of quantitative primary studies published in English and undertaken in high-income countries. Method Six bibliographic databases were searched and additional grey literature sources screened. Data were extracted onto a standardised proforma and quality assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project tool. Data were synthesised narratively and effect direction plots were produced for each outcome. Results Thirteen studies were included. Social-prescribing interventions were evaluated in 10 studies, collaborative care in two studies, and a new model of care in one study. Positive results (based on effect direction) were reported for the impact of the interventions on wellbeing in groups that were socioeconomically deprived. Inconsistent (mainly positive) results were reported for anxiety and depression. One study reported that people from the group with least deprivation, compared with the group with greatest deprivation, benefitted most from these interventions. Overall, study quality was weak. Conclusion Targeting non-pharmaceutical primary care interventions at areas of socioeconomic deprivation may help to reduce inequalities in mental health outcomes. However, only tentative conclusions can be drawn from the evidence in this review and more-robust research is required.1-

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tanner LM, Wildman JM, Stoniute A, Still M, Bernard K, Green R, Eastaugh CH, Thomson KH, Sowden S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of General Practice

Year: 2023

Volume: 73

Issue: 729

Pages: e242-e248

Print publication date: 01/04/2023

Online publication date: 07/02/2023

Acceptance date: 10/11/2022

Date deposited: 07/02/2023

ISSN (print): 0960-1643

ISSN (electronic): 1478-5242

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners


DOI: 10.3399/BJGP.2022.0343


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Funder referenceFunder name
Applied Research Collaboration (ARC)
NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS)
NIHR National Institute for Health and Care Research