Article Text

Original research
Scoping review to evaluate the effects of peer support on the mental health of young adults
  1. Jérémie Richard1,2,
  2. Reid Rebinsky2,3,
  3. Rahul Suresh2,4,
  4. Serena Kubic2,
  5. Adam Carter2,
  6. Jasmyn E A Cunningham2,3,
  7. Amy Ker2,
  8. Kayla Williams2,
  9. Mark Sorin2,5
  1. 1Educational and Counselling Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  2. 2Canadian Peer Support Network, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  3. 3Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  5. 5Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Jérémie Richard; jeremie.richard{at}


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.

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  • 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.