Social support group interventions in people with dementia and mild cognitive impairment: a systematic review of the literature

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;30(1):1-9. doi: 10.1002/gps.4166. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


Objectives: Despite the large number of studies evaluating social support groups for people with dementia, there are no systematic reviews of current evidence. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of social support group interventions for people with dementia and mild cognitive impairment.

Methods: A systematic review was performed. We searched electronic databases for randomised controlled trials. Two reviewers worked independently to select trials, extract data and assess risk of bias.

Results: A total of 546 studies were identified of which two met the inclusion criteria. We were not able to pool data for further analyses, as the interventions tested in the studies meeting the inclusion criteria were too dissimilar in content. The first trial (n = 136) showed a benefit of early-stage memory loss social support groups for depression and quality of life in people with dementia. The second trial (n = 33) showed that post-treatment self-reported self-esteem was higher in the group receiving a multicomponent intervention of social support compared with that in the no intervention control group.

Conclusions: Limited data from two studies suggest that support groups may be of psychological benefit to people with dementia by reducing depression and improving quality of life and self-esteem. These findings need to be viewed in light of the small number, small sample size and heterogeneous characteristics of current trials, indicating that it is difficult to draw any conclusions. More multicentre randomised controlled trials in social support group interventions for people with dementia are needed.

Keywords: RCTs; dementia; mild cognitive impairment; psychosocial interventions; social support groups.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self Concept
  • Social Support*