Meta-analysis of psychosocial interventions for people with dementia and anxiety or depression

Aging Ment Health. 2019 Oct;23(10):1282-1291. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2018.1495177. Epub 2018 Oct 17.


Objectives: Assess the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions for depression and anxiety in people with dementia (PWD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Method: OvidMedline, PsychInfo and Embase were searched for studies on the 5th August 2017. The efficacy of the studies was estimated using meta-analyses. Results: Eight RCTs were included. No RCTs were identified for people with MCI. Four RCTs found that psychosocial interventions (multicomponent intervention, Tai Chi, problem adaptation therapy and exercise/walking) were effective at reducing symptoms of depression in PWD who were depressed. One study (Tai Chi) found that these reductions were no longer evident at six-month follow-up. Another study, not included in the meta-analyses, found that pleasant events behaviour therapy and problem solving behaviour therapy improved depression symptoms and this effect remained significant at follow-up. Three RCTs found that psychosocial interventions (music therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)) reduced symptoms of anxiety in PWD who were anxious. Evidence from two of these RCTs (music therapy and CBT) showed that these improvements were evident at three to six-month follow-up. Conclusion: The identified psychosocial interventions are effective at reducing symptoms of depression or anxiety in PWD experiencing these symptoms. This review is limited by the quality of studies, small sample sizes and the heterogeneity of the interventions, therefore high quality studies with larger sample sizes are required to test the efficacy of specific interventions such as CBT.

Keywords: Dementia; anxiety; depression; mild cognitive impairment; psychosocial interventions.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Music Therapy
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tai Ji