Background: Positive psychology interventions, which involve systematic completion of activities designed to promote well-being, are being increasingly studied in medically ill patients. However, the extent to which these interventions ameliorate patient anxiety remains unclear.
Objective: To determine the efficacy of positive psychology interventions in reducing anxiety in medical patients.
Methods: Electronic databases Medline, PsycINFO, SciELO, Cochrane (Central) and clinicaltrials.gov were searched from inception until June 18th, 2018 to identify studies of positive psychology interventions that included a validated measure of anxiety as an outcome measure.
Results: The search generated a total of 1,024 studies. Twelve randomized controlled trials (n = 1,131) delivered to medical patients were included in the review, and 11 one-arm trials were included in a secondary analysis. Positive psychology interventions were effective at reducing patient anxiety relative to a control, g = -0.34, 95% CI [-0.50, -0.18], with results maintained at a mean of eight-week follow-up (g = -0.31, 95% CI [-0.54, -0.08]). Clinician-led interventions were more effective than self-administered interventions and there was a significant dose-response.
Conclusion: Positive psychology interventions appear to be effective at reducing medical patient anxiety. Future research is needed to determine optimal intervention characteristics that maximize the observed treatment effects.