Individual-level interventions for reducing occupational stress in healthcare workers.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2023 05 12; 5:CD002892.CD
Healthcare workers can suffer from work-related stress as a result of an imbalance of demands, skills and social support at work. This may lead to stress, burnout and psychosomatic problems, and deterioration of service provision. This is an update of a Cochrane Review that was last updated in 2015, which has been split into this review and a review on organisational-level interventions. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness of stress-reduction interventions targeting individual healthcare workers compared to no intervention, wait list, placebo, no stress-reduction intervention or another type of stress-reduction intervention in reducing stress symptoms. SEARCH METHODS: We used the previous version of the review as one source of studies (search date: November 2013). We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science and a trials register from 2013 up to February 2022.
We included randomised controlled trials (RCT) evaluating the effectiveness of stress interventions directed at healthcare workers. We included only interventions targeted at individual healthcare workers aimed at reducing stress symptoms. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, assessed risk of bias and extracted data. We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We categorised interventions into ones that: 1. focus one's attention on the (modification of the) experience of stress (thoughts, feelings, behaviour); 2. focus one's attention away from the experience of stress by various means of psychological disengagement (e.g. relaxing, exercise); 3. alter work-related risk factors on an individual level; and ones that 4. combine two or more of the above. The crucial outcome measure was stress symptoms measured with various self-reported questionnaires such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), measured at short term (up to and including three months after the intervention ended), medium term (> 3 to 12 months after the intervention ended), and long term follow-up (> 12 months after the intervention ended). MAIN RESULTS: This is the second update of the original Cochrane Review published in 2006, Issue 4. This review update includes 89 new studies, bringing the total number of studies in the current review to 117 with a total of 11,119 participants randomised. The number of participants per study arm was ≥ 50 in 32 studies. The most important risk of bias was the lack of blinding of participants. Focus on the experience of stress versus no intervention/wait list/placebo/no stress-reduction intervention Fifty-two studies studied an intervention in which one's focus is on the experience of stress. Overall, such interventions may result in a reduction in stress symptoms in the short term (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.52 to -0.23; 41 RCTs; 3645 participants; low-certainty evidence) and medium term (SMD -0.43, 95% CI -0.71 to -0.14; 19 RCTs; 1851 participants; low-certainty evidence). The SMD of the short-term result translates back to 4.6 points fewer on the MBI-emotional exhaustion scale (MBI-EE, a scale from 0 to 54). The evidence is very uncertain (one RCT; 68 participants, very low-certainty evidence) about the long-term effect on stress symptoms of focusing one's attention on the experience of stress. Focus away from the experience of stress versus no intervention/wait list/placebo/no stress-reduction intervention Forty-two studies studied an intervention in which one's focus is away from the experience of stress. Overall, such interventions may result in a reduction in stress symptoms in the short term (SMD -0.55, 95 CI -0.70 to -0.40; 35 RCTs; 2366 participants; low-certainty evidence) and medium term (SMD -0.41 95% CI -0.79 to -0.03; 6 RCTs; 427 participants; low-certainty evidence). The SMD on the short term translates back to 6.8 fewer points on the MBI-EE. No studies reported the long-term effect. Focus on work-related, individual-level factors versus no intervention/no stress-reduction intervention Seven studies studied an intervention in which the focus is on altering work-related factors. The evidence is very uncertain about the short-term effects (no pooled effect estimate; three RCTs; 87 participants; very low-certainty evidence) and medium-term effects and long-term effects (no pooled effect estimate; two RCTs; 152 participants, and one RCT; 161 participants, very low-certainty evidence) of this type of stress management intervention. A combination of individual-level interventions versus no intervention/wait list/no stress-reduction intervention Seventeen studies studied a combination of interventions. In the short-term, this type of intervention may result in a reduction in stress symptoms (SMD -0.67 95%, CI -0.95 to -0.39; 15 RCTs; 1003 participants; low-certainty evidence). The SMD translates back to 8.2 fewer points on the MBI-EE. On the medium term, a combination of individual-level interventions may result in a reduction in stress symptoms, but the evidence does not exclude no effect (SMD -0.48, 95% CI -0.95 to 0.00; 6 RCTs; 574 participants; low-certainty evidence). The evidence is very uncertain about the long term effects of a combination of interventions on stress symptoms (one RCT, 88 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Focus on stress versus other intervention type Three studies compared focusing on stress versus focusing away from stress and one study a combination of interventions versus focusing on stress. The evidence is very uncertain about which type of intervention is better or if their effect is similar.