Objectives Young adults report disproportionality greater mental health problems compared with the rest of the population with numerous barriers preventing them from seeking help. Peer support, defined as a form of social-emotional support offered by an individual with a shared lived experience, has been reported as being effective in improving a variety of mental health outcomes in differing populations. The objective of this scoping review is to provide an overview of the literature investigating the impact of peer support on the mental health of young adults.
Design A scoping review methodology was used to identify relevant peer-reviewed articles in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines across six databases and Google/Google Scholar. Overall, 17 eligible studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the review.
Results Overall, studies suggest that peer support is associated with improvements in mental health including greater happiness, self-esteem and effective coping, and reductions in depression, loneliness and anxiety. This effect appears to be present among university students, non-student young adults and ethnic/sexual minorities. Both individual and group peer support appear to be beneficial for mental health with positive effects also being present for those providing the support.
Conclusions Peer support appears to be a promising avenue towards improving the mental health of young adults, with lower barriers to accessing these services when compared with traditional mental health services. The importance of training peer supporters and the differential impact of peer support based on the method of delivery should be investigated in future research.
- depression & mood disorders
- mental health
- child & adolescent psychiatry
- adult psychiatry
Data availability statement
No data are available.
This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Twitter @RRebinsky, @JasmynC
Contributors JR: conceptualisation, methodology, literature search, literature screening, writing–original draft, writing-review and editing, supervision, project administration, guarantor. RR: conceptualisation, methodology, literature search, literature screening, supervision, project administration, funding acquisition. RS: writing-original draft, writing-review and editing. SK: literature screening, data extraction. AC: literature screening, data extraction. JEAC: literature screening, data extraction, writing-review and editing. AK: literature screening. KW: literature screening. MS: literature screening, data extraction, writing-original draft, writing-review and editing, supervision, funding acquisition.
Funding Funding was provided for assistance with the costs of open-access publication by the Mary H Brown Fund offered by McGill University (Award/Grant number is not applicable).
Disclaimer No funding agencies had input into the content of this manuscript.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.