Effectiveness and Acceptability of Low-intensity Psychological Interventions on the Well-being of Older Adults: A Systematic Review

Clin Gerontol. 2022 Mar-Apr;45(2):214-234. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2019.1662867. Epub 2019 Sep 11.


Objectives: Growth in the older adult population and healthcare inequities mean there is a global need to increase access to early intervention in mental healthcare for older adults. This systematic review synthesized the evidence for the efficacy and acceptability of low-intensity psychological interventions (self-help, psychoeducation, bibliotherapy, internet cognitive-behavioral therapy: iCBT) for older adults with mild-to-moderate mental health problems.Methods: Ovid, EBSCOhost and ProQuest were searched for articles describing low-intensity psychological interventions. Pre and post outcome measures and a mean age of at least 50 (age range ≥40) were required for inclusion.Results: 26 articles (23 studies) described various interventions. Most studies were good quality and reported improvements in participant's mental health scores post intervention. Participants were more likely to be female, aged 60-70 and to be highly educated. Eight studies reported obtaining participant satisfaction ratings. Three studies included participants from rural areas.Conclusions: Low-intensity psychological interventions can be effective for older adults with mild-to-moderate mental health problems, but generalizability is constrained.Clinical Implications: Guided iCBT and bibliotherapy may be beneficial for adults in their 60s and 70s experiencing mild-to-moderate levels of depression. CBT may also be beneficial for reducing symptoms of mild-to-moderate anxiety. Providing the option of low-intensity psychological intervention, particularly iCBT, may help increase engagement with treatment.

Keywords: CBT; Older adult; bibliotherapy; internet psychotherapy; low-intensity psychological therapy; mental health; psychoeducation; psychological intervention; self-help.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Psychosocial Intervention*