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Systematic review of universal and targeted workplace interventions for depression
  1. Wan Mohd Azam Wan Mohd Yunus1,2,
  2. Peter Musiat3,
  3. June S L Brown1
  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Human Resource Development, Faculty of Management, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Skudai, Johor, Malaysia
  3. 3 Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Wan Mohd Azam Wan Mohd Yunus, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College, London SE5 8AF, UK; azam.yunus{at}


Depression is increasingly being recognised as a significant mental health problem in the workplace contributing to productivity loss and economic burden to organisations. This paper reviews recently published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of universal and targeted interventions to reduce depression in the workplace. Studies were identified through searches of EMBASE, MEDLINE/PubMed, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES Full Text, and Global Health and Social Policy and Practice databases. Studies were included if they included an RCT of a workplace intervention for employees targeting depression as the primary outcome. Twenty-two published RCTs investigating interventions utilising various therapeutic approaches were identified. The cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach is the most frequently used in the workplace, while interventions that combine different therapeutic approaches showed the most promising results. A universal intervention in the workplace that combines CBT and coping flexibility recorded the highest effect size (d=1.45 at 4 months’ follow-up). Most interventions were delivered in group format and showed low attrition rates compared with other delivery formats. Although all studies reviewed were RCTs, the quality of reporting is low. Interventions using different therapeutic approaches with different modes of delivery have been used. Most of these interventions were shown to reduce depression levels among employees in the workplace, particularly those that combine more than one therapeutic approaches.

  • systematic literature review
  • universal
  • targeted
  • workplace intervention
  • depression

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  • Contributors WMAWMY conducted the systematic review and wrote the manuscript as part of his PhD research under the supervision of JSLB and PM. WMAWMY conducted the literature search, selected and classified the appropriate articles, created the table, and wrote the manuscript. PM assisted in the search strategy, literature searches and methodological procedure of the systematic review. All authors contributed directly by consistently giving comments and feedback to the review write-up. WMAWMY reviewed the comments and suggestions provided by JSLB and PM, and improvised the manuscript contents. PM and JSLB constantly read and double-checked WMAWMY’s revised versions of the write-up. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding WMAWMY was funded by a scholarship from the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia for his PhD research. The funders had no involvement in the conduct of this article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.