Efficacy of group psychotherapy for geriatric depression: A systematic review

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2018 Sep-Oct;78:71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Background: Geriatric depression is a common and debilitating psychopathology, but evidence supports the efficacy of psychotherapy in its treatment. Group therapy provides advantages over individual interventions. However, only three systematic reviews have focused specifically on the efficacy of group therapy for geriatric depression.

Objective: To ascertain the effects of group psychotherapy on geriatric depression in people aged 60 years and older, compared with alternative treatments or no treatment.

Data sources: A systematic review of English, Portuguese, and Spanish studies using the EBSCOhost Research and Science Direct databases (2011-2017). Additional studies were identified through reference lists. Search terms included group therapy, group psychotherapy, older adults, elderly, depressive disorder, geriatric depression, and depression in the elderly.

Review methods: The researcher screened any study designs concerning the effects of any paradigm of group therapy on geriatric depression versus alternative interventions or no treatment. Relevant data, including indicators of risk of bias, were extracted.

Data synthesis: Nine studies were reviewed. Reminiscence therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy are viable group interventions for geriatric depression, and were significantly superior to most controls. Conclusions about the long-term effects were unclear. Significant improvements were obtained for different intervention durations and facilitators, and with participants of different nationalities and age. Most studies recruited participants from the community, which limited generalizability. Group therapy also resulted in improvements in other psychological variables.

Conclusions: Group therapy can significantly improve geriatric depression. Improvements were found across a variety of settings, protocols, participant characteristics, and for several psychological domains.

Keywords: Geriatric depression; Group psychological therapy; Older adults; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Psychotherapy, Group*