Peer support intervention trials for individuals with heart disease: a systematic review

Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2010 Mar;9(1):57-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcnurse.2009.10.002. Epub 2009 Nov 18.


Background: Heart disease is a major cause of illness, disability and death worldwide with high personal, community and healthcare costs. Social support affects psychological and physical morbidity, mortality, and adjustment to chronic disease. Peer support, a specific type of social support, has been shown to be an effective intervention for a variety of populations.

Aim: The aim of this paper is to critically examine the effects of peer support interventions on health outcomes in individuals with heart disease.

Methods: Searches were made of ACP Journal Club, EBM, CDSR, DARE, CCTR (1982-2005), MEDLINE (1966-2005), PsycINFO (1975-July 2005), HealthSTAR (1975-June 2005), and CINAHL (1982-July 2005) using text words and MeSH headings.

Results: Electronic and hand searching yielded 27 studies and reviews. Six studies met the inclusion criteria and were assessed using guidelines from The Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group and The Cochrane Collaboration. Inferences about the results were limited to critical appraisal. The trials demonstrated some positive effects of peer support for individuals with heart disease, including higher levels of self-efficacy, improved activity, reduced pain, and fewer emergency room visits.

Conclusion: Despite some evidence supporting peer support for individuals with heart disease, methodological problems preclude generalizations. Further research with greater methodological rigor is warranted.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Heart Diseases / nursing
  • Heart Diseases / psychology*
  • Heart Diseases / therapy
  • Humans
  • Peer Group*
  • Social Support*