A systematic review of economic analyses of psychological interventions and therapies in health-related settings

Leeanne Nicklas*, Mairi Albiston, Martin Dunbar, Alan Gillies, Jennifer Hislop, Helen Moffat, Judy Thomson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: This review aims to synthesise evidence on the economic impact of psychological interventions and therapies when applied to a broad range of physical health conditions. 

Methods: The following bibliographic databases were searched for relevant articles: MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid) and PsycINFO (Ebsco). As this review was intended to update an earlier review, the date range for the search was restricted to between January 2012 and September 2018. Reference lists from the review articles were also searched for relevant articles. Study quality was evaluated using the Scottish Intercollegiate Network Guidelines (SIGN) appraisal checklists for both economic studies and Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs). When the economic analyses did not provide sufficient detail for quality evaluation, the original RCT papers were sought and these were also evaluated. Half of the papers were quality rated by a second author. Initial agreement was high and all disagreements were resolved by discussion. 

Results: This yielded 1408 unique articles, reduced to 134 following screening of the title and abstract. The full texts of the remaining articles were reviewed by at least one team member and all exclusions were discussed and agreed by the team. This left 46 original research articles, alongside five systematic reviews. Fifty-seven per cent of the articles were deemed to be of high quality, with the remainder of acceptable quality. Fifteen different medical conditions were covered, with chronic pain (10 articles) and cancer (9 articles) being the two most investigated health conditions. Three quarters of the papers reviewed showed evidence for the cost-effectiveness of psychological interventions in physical health, with the clearest evidence being in the field of chronic pain and cancer. 

Conclusions: This paper provides a comprehensive integration of the research on the cost-effectiveness of psychological therapies in physical health. Whilst the evidence for cost-effectiveness in chronic pain and cancer is encouraging, some health conditions require further study. Clearly, as the primary research is international, and was therefore conducted across varying health care systems, caution must be exercised when applying the results to counties outside of those covered. Despite this, the results are of potential relevance to service providers and funders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1131
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Early online date7 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • cost-effectiveness
  • diabetes
  • long term conditions, chronic pain, cancer
  • psychological interventions
  • weight management


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