To read this content please select one of the options below:

The effectiveness of mental health literacy interventions in young people: a meta-analysis

John Mills (Play Aid CIC, Colchester, UK)
Lee Cumbers (Department of Creative Industries, University of Chichester, Chichester, UK)
Samuel Williams (Play Aid CIC, Colchester, UK)
Henry Titley-Wall (Department of Sport, University Academy 92, Manchester, UK)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 11 August 2023

Issue publication date: 9 November 2023




Adolescence and young adulthood are recognised as critical time for developing mental health literacy (MHL). The purpose of this study is to analyse the effectiveness of current MHL interventions to guide the future development of MHL intervention strategies.


A meta-analysis adopting the PRISMA framework for systematically reviewing the literature was adopted. Three authors independently reviewed studies and extrapolated key data for analysis. A robust random-effects model with adjustments for small study biases was conducted to establish the effect sizes of all included MHL interventions. Moderator analysis was conducted to examine the effects of intervention length in MHL.


A total of 11 intervention studies were identified and analysed, resulting in a medium to large pooled effect size of 0.62 (95% CI: 0.28; 0.96). Moderator analysis found that short interventions had an estimated standard mean difference (SMD) effect size of 0.9220 (95% CI: −1.1555; 2.9995). This was greater than the medium length interventions, with an estimated SMD effect size of 0.4967 (95% CI: 0.0452; 0.9483), and long interventions, with an estimated SMD effect size of 0.5628 (95% CI: −0.2726; 1.3983). As a result, MHL interventions are proficient in improving young adults’ MHL, with shorter interventions (45–50 min) having the largest effect size. This study highlights several inconsistencies in methodological rigour and reporting from studies in this area, which future research should look to address.


To date, MHL review studies have often focused their attention on a specific domain, most notably education and school-based setting. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, no reviews have conducted a meta-analysis across contexts and domains with a specific focus on MHL intervention strategies for young adults.



Conflict of interest: This study was conducted as part of a larger project supported by Men’s Mental Health Charity Movember.


Mills, J., Cumbers, L., Williams, S. and Titley-Wall, H. (2023), "The effectiveness of mental health literacy interventions in young people: a meta-analysis", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 386-395.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles