Psychosocial and behavioural interventions for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia: a systematic review of efficacy meta-analyses

Matteo Cella*, Safina Roberts, Matthias Pillny, Marcel Riehle, Brian O'donoghue, John Lyne, Paul Tomlin, Lucia Valmaggia, Antonio Preti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background Currently there is no first-line treatment recommended for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosocial and behavioural interventions are widely used to reduce the burden of negative symptoms. Meta-analytic studies have summarised the evidence for specific approaches but not compared evidence quality and benefit. Aim To review and evaluate the evidence from meta-analytic studies of psychosocial and behavioural interventions for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Method A systematic literature search was undertaken to identify all meta-analyses evaluating psychosocial and behavioural interventions reporting on negative symptom outcomes in people with schizophrenia. Data on intervention, study characteristics, acceptability and outcome were extracted. Risk of bias was evaluated. Results were summarised descriptively, and evidence ranked on methodological quality. Results In total, 31 systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria evaluating the efficacy of negative symptom interventions on 33 141 participants. Exercise interventions showed effect sizes (reduction in negative symptoms) ranging from -0.59 to -0.24 and psychological interventions ranging from -0.65 to -0.04. Attrition ranged between 12% to 32%. Across the studies considered heterogeneity varied substantially (range 0-100). Most of the reviews were of very low to low methodological quality. Methodological quality ranking suggested that the effect size for cognitive remediation and exercise therapy may be more robust compared with other approaches. Conclusions Most of the interventions considered had a small-to-moderate effect size, good acceptability levels but very few had negative symptoms as the primary intervention target. To improve the confidence of these effect sizes being replicated in clinical settings future studies should minimise risk of bias.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023


  • negative symptoms
  • Psychosis
  • psychosocial
  • review
  • schizophrenia


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