The experience and impact of chronic disease peer support interventions: a qualitative synthesis

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 Jul;92(1):3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2013.02.002. Epub 2013 Feb 28.


Objective: Our aim was to synthesise qualitative literature about the perceived impact and experience of participating in peer support interventions for individuals with chronic disease.

Methods: We carried out a meta-ethnography to synthesize 25 papers meeting specific inclusion criteria.

Results: Thirteen concepts were identified that reflected participants' perceptions of the experience and impact of intervention participation. These were brought together in a conceptual model that highlighted both positive and negative perceptions, while also indicating if specific experiences and impacts had greater pertinence for mentors, mentees, or were mutually experienced.

Conclusion: Although peer support interventions may establish uneven power relationships between mentors and mentees, there is also potential for initially asymmetrical relationships to become more symmetrical over time. Our synthesis suggests that emotional support is particularly valued when delivered under conditions that do not merely reproduce biomedical hierarchies of power.

Practice implications: This synthesis suggests that those developing and implementing peer support interventions need to be sensitive to their potential negative effects. They will need to manage the tension between the hierarchical and egalitarian aspects of peer support interventions, and consider the impact on both mentors and mentees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Peer Group*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Help Groups*