Can We Increase Psychological Well-Being? The Effects of Interventions on Psychological Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

L.A. Weiss, J. Coyne (Editor), G.J. Westerhof, E.T. Bohlmeijer

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There is a rapidly growing interest in psychological well-being (PWB) as outcome of interventions. Ryff developed theory-based indicators of PWB that are consistent with a eudaimonic perspective of happiness. Numerous interventions have been developed with the aim to increase PWB. However, the effects on PWB measured as coherent outcome have not been examined across studies yet. This meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions aims to answer the question whether it is possible to enhance PWB.


A systematic literature search was performed in PsycINFO, Cochrane and Web of Science. To be included, studies had to be randomized controlled trials of behavioral interventions with psychological well-being as primary or secondary outcome measure, measured with either Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being Scales or the Mental Health Continuum—Short Form. The meta-analysis was performed using a random effects model. From the 2,298 articles found, 27 met the inclusion criteria. The included studies involved 3,579 participants.


We found a moderate effect (Cohen’s d = 0.44; z = 5.62; p < .001). Heterogeneity between the studies was large (Q (26) = 134.12; p < .001; I2 = 80.62). At follow-up after two to ten months, a small but still significant effect size of 0.22 was found. There was no clear indication of publication bias. Interventions were more effective in clinical groups and when they were delivered individually. Effects were larger in studies of lower quality.

It appears to be possible to improve PWB with behavioral interventions. The results are promising for the further development and implementation of interventions to promote PWB. Delivering interventions face-to-face seems to be the most promising option. We recommend to keep including clinical groups in the research of psychological well-being. Heterogeneity is a limitation of the study and there is need for more high-quality studies.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Article numbere0158092
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

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