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Setting-based interventions to promote mental health at the university: a systematic review

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International Journal of Public Health



Universities are dynamic environments. But university life presents challenges that may affect the mental health of its community. Higher education institutions provide opportunities to promote public health. Our objective is to summarise the current evidence on strategies to promote mental health at the university, following a setting-based model.


We conducted a systematic literature review following standard methods. Published literature that evaluated structural and organizations strategies to promote mental health at the university was selected.


19 papers were included. The majority of the studies were targeting the students, with only four aiming to promote employees’ mental health. The most promising strategies to promote mental wellbeing included changes in the way students are taught and assessed. On the other hand, social marketing strategies had not impact on mental health. There is inconclusive evidence related to the effectiveness of policies to promote mental health.


Universities should invest in creating supportive physical, social and academic environments that promote student and staff mental wellbeing. However, the current body of evidence is scarce and more research is needed to recommend what are the best strategies.

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The authors are grateful to the member of the Mental Wellbeing Group at Healthy Sydney University, who oversighted this review during all the process, providing useful comments and inputs.

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Correspondence to A. Fernandez.

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This paper presents the results of a systematic review of published studies. No ethical approval was required.

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Fernandez, A., Howse, E., Rubio-Valera, M. et al. Setting-based interventions to promote mental health at the university: a systematic review. Int J Public Health 61, 797–807 (2016).

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