Indicated Prevention Interventions in the Workplace for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Context: Depressive symptoms are highly prevalent and cause substantive morbidities and loss of functioning among employees. Depression may be prevented at its early stages. However, there is a paucity of information regarding indicated preventive interventions for depression among employees. The objective of this review is to examine the effectiveness of indicated interventions for the reduction of depressive symptoms in the workplace.

Evidence acquisition: A systematic review and meta-analysis of articles published between January 2000 and September 2017 was conducted using major electronic databases, including PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, SOCINDEX, and ABI/ProQuest. Studies were selected based on a set of predefined inclusion criteria. Primary outcome measures were depressive symptomatology, and the interventions were preventive in nature. Studies were pooled based on the intervention type and the effect size was measured using the standardized mean difference.

Evidence synthesis: A computer and hand search of the literature yielded 4,462 papers, from which 16 trials were identified to be suitable for meta-analysis. Eight of 16 studies reported significant effects for workplace preventive interventions targeting depressive symptoms in which six were cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based interventions and two were non-CBT-based interventions. Small to medium effect sizes were found for both CBT- and non-CBT-based interventions (standardized mean difference= -0.44, 95% CI= -0.61, -0.26, I2=62.1% and standardized mean difference= -0.32, 95% CI= -0.59, -0.06, I2=58%, respectively).

Conclusions: This review demonstrates that indicated interventions can significantly reduce the level of depressive symptoms among workers. The implementation of evidence-based workplace interventions should consequently be considered to prevent the development of depressive symptoms among employees.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University

Publication (Name of Journal)

American Journal of Preventive Medicine