Skip to main content

Coverage of mental health and substance misuse topics in the Cochrane review system

  • S. Green-Hennessy (a1)

To assess the breadth of mental and substance coverage in the Cochrane review system.


All mental health and substance entries were identified from the 2005 to April 2012 Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.


A total of 1019 entries focused on mental health or substance misuse, with 698 (68.5%) being completed reviews. One out of every five entries focused on serious mental illness/psychosis. Systematic reviews addressing unipolar depression, dementia and certain substance disorders also appeared well-represented. In contrast, a number of impairing disorders frequently seen in practice received less attention, with bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and autism spectrum disorders each accounting for less than 2% of the entries. The majority of interventions reviewed involved medication (57.1%), although this was not the case for a number of childhood-onset disorders. Some diagnostic areas (sleep, anxiety, mood and substance) were addressed by multiple Cochrane review groups (CRGs).


The Cochrane Collaboration is well poised to be a strong guiding influence to those seeking to employ evidence-based mental health care. Broadening its diagnostic coverage and diversifying types of intervention reviewed would probably further maximize its impact. A more centralized and directed approach of prioritizing topics could help ensure more comprehensive coverage.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Sharon Green-Hennessy, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology, Loyola University Maryland, 4501 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21210, USA. (Email:
Hide All
Ahmad, N, Boutron, I, Deschartres, A, Durieux, P, Ravaud, P (2010). Applicability and generalisability of the results of systematic review to public health practice and policy: a systematic review. Trials 11, 2028.
Alonso, J, Petukhova, M, Vilagut, G, Chatterji, S, Heeringa, S, Üstün, TB, Alhamzawi, AO, Viana, MC, Angermeyer, M, Bromet, E, Bruffaerts, R, de Girolamo, G, Florescu, S, Gureje, O, Haro, JM, Hinkov, H, Hu, CY, Karam, EG, Kovess, V, Levinson, D, Medina-Mora, ME, Nakamura, Y, Ormel, J, Posada-Villa, J, Sagar, R, Scott, KM, Tsang, A, Williams, DR, Kessler, RC (2011). Days out of role due to common physical and mental conditions: results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys. Molecular Psychiatry 16, 12341246.
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Revised edn.American Psychiatric Press: Washington, DC.
Armstrong, R, Pettman, T, Burford, B, Doyle, J, Waters, E (2012). Cochrane update: tracking and understanding the utility of Cochrane reviews for public health decision making. Journal of Public Health 34, 309313.
Armstrong, R, Waters, E, Crockett, B, Keleher, H (2007). The nature of evidence resources and knowledge translation for health promotion practitioners. Health Promotion International 22, 254260.
APA Council of Representatives (2005). Policy statement on evidence-based practice in Psychology. Retrieved 3 July 2012 from
APA Task Force on Evidence-Based Practice for Children and Adolescents (2008). Disseminating evidence-based practice for children and adolescents: a systems approach to enhancing care. Retrieved 3 July 2012 from
Barbui, C, Tansella, M (2011). Cochrane reviews impact on mental health policy and practice. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 20, 211214.
Bow, S, Klassen, J, Chisholm, A, Tiosvold, L, Thomson, D, Klassen, TP, Moher, D, Hartling, L (2010). A descriptive analysis of child-relevant systematic reviews in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. BMC Pediatrics 10, 3440.
Brown, RJ (2007). Introduction to the special issue on medically unexplained symptoms: background and future directions. Clinical Psychology Review 27, 769780.
Cochrane Agenda and Priority Setting Methods Group (2012). Background & History. Retrieved 27 June 2012 from
Cochrane Collaboration. (2012). The Cochrane Policy Manual [updated 14 June 2012]. Retrieved 28 June 2012 from
Cochrane Library (2012). About the Cochrane Library. Retrieved 13 April 2012 from
Cooper, JL, Aratani, Y (2009). That status of states' policies to support evidence-based practices in children's mental health. Psychiatric Services 60, 16721675.
Einfeld, SL, Ellis, LA, Emerson, E (2011). Comorbidity of intellectual disability and mental disorder in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability 36, 137143.
El Dib, RP, Atallah, AN, Andriolo, RB (2007). Mapping the Cochrane evidence for decision making in health care. Journal of Evaluation and Clinical Practice 13, 689692.
Forbes, D, Creamer, M, Bisson, JI, Cohen, JA, Crow, BE, Foa, EB, Friedman, MJ, Keane, TM, Kudler, HS, Ursano, RJ (2010). A guide to guidelines for the treatment of PTSD and related conditions. Journal of Traumatic Stress 23, 537552.
Forsner, T, Hansson, J, Brommels, M, Wistedt, AA, Forsell, Y (2010). Implementing clinical guidelines in psychiatry: a qualitative study of perceived facilitators and barriers. BMC Psychiatry 10, 8.
French, SD, McDonald, S, McKenzie, JE, Green, SE (2005). Investing in updating: how do conclusions change when Cochrane systematic reviews are updated? BMC Medical Research Methodology 5, 3338.
Gaebel, W, Weinmann, S, Sartorius, N, Rutz, W, McIntyre, JS (2005). Schizophrenia practice guidelines: international survey and comparison. British Journal of Psychiatry 187, 248255.
Gallo, KP, Barlow, DP (2012). Factors involved in clinician adoption and nonadoption of evidence-based interventions in mental health. Clinical Psychology: Research and Practice 19, 93106.
Gill, PJ, Wang, KY, Mant, D, Hartling, L, Heneghan, C, Perera, R, Klassen, T, Harden, A (2011). The evidence base for interventions delivered to children in primary care: an overview of Cochrane Systematic Reviews. PLos ONE 6, 19.
Grimshaw, J (2004). So what has the Cochrane Collaboration ever done for us? A report card on The first 10 years. Canadian Medical Association Journal 171, 747749.
Handoll, HH, Stott, DJ, Elstub, LJ, Elliott, JC, Kavanagh, AL, Madhok, R (2012). A framework for effective collaboration between specialist and broad-spectrum groups for delivering priority Cochrane reviews. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Retrieved 28 May 2012 from
Hannes, K, Pieters, G, Goedhuys, J, Aertgeerts, B (2010). Exploring barriers to the implementation of evidence-based practice in psychiatry to inform health policy: a focus group study. Community Mental Health Journal 46, 423432.
Higgins, JPT, Green, S (eds.) (2011). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0. Cochrane Collaboration: London.
Isett, KR, Burnam, MA, Coleman-Beattie, B, Hyde, PS, Morrissey, JP, Magnabosco, JL, Rapp, C, Ganju, V, Goldman, HH (2008). The role of state mental health authorities in managing change for the implementation of evidence-based practices. Community Mental Health Journal 44, 195211.
Jørgensen, AW, Hilden, J, Gøtzsche, PC (2006). Cochrane reviews compared with industry supported meta-analyses and other meta-analyses of the same drugs: systematic review. British Medical Journal 333, 782786.
Kessler, RC, Merikangas, KR, Wang, PS (2010). The epidemiology of mental disorders. In Mental Health Services: A Public Health Perspective, 3rd edn (ed. Levin, BL, Hennessy, KD, Petrila, J), pp. 169200. Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York.
Littell, JH (2008). Evidence-based or biased? The quality of published reviews of evidence-based practices. Children and Youth Services Review 30, 12991317.
Luengo-Fernandez, R, Leal, J, Gray, A (2010). Dementia 2010: economic burden of dementia and associated research funding in the United Kingdom. A Report by the Health Economics Research Centre, University of Oxford's Alzheimer's Research Trust. Retrieved 15 May 2012 from
MacLehose, H, Hilton, J, Tovey, D (eds) (2012). The Cochrane Library: Revolution or Evolution? Background paper for The Cochrane Collaboration's Strategic Session, 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2012 from
Magnabosco, JL (2006). Innovations in mental health services implementation: a report on state-level data from the U.S. Evidence-Based Practices Project. Implementation Science 1, 1322.
Matthew, SJ, Charney, DS (2009). Publication bias and the efficacy of antidepressant. American Journal of Psychiatry 166, 140145.
Moher, D, Tsertsvadze, A, Tricco, AC, Eccles, M, Grimshaw, J, Sampson, M, Barrowman, N (2007). A systematic review identified few methods and strategies describing when and how to update systematic reviews. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 60, 10951104.
Moseley, AM, Elkins, MR, Herbert, RD, Maher, CG, Sherrington, C (2009). Cochrane reviews used more rigorous methods than non-Cochrane reviews: survey of systematic reviews in physiotherapy. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 62, 10211030.
Nasser, M, Welch, V, Tugwell, P, Ueffing, P, Doyle, J, Waters, E (2012). Ensuring relevance for Cochrane reviews: evaluating processes and methods for prioritizing topics for Cochrane reviews. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology Retrieved 28 May 2012 from
Nelson, TD, Steele, RG (2008). Influences on practitioner treatment selection: best research evidence and other considerations. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research 35, 170178.
Pagoto, SL, Spring, B, Coups, EJ, Mulvaney, S, Coutu, MF, Ozakinci, G (2007). Barriers and facilitators of evidence-based practice perceived by behavioral science health professionals. Journal of Clinical Psychology 63, 695705.
Purgato, M, Barbui, C, Adams, CE (2011). Using the needs of the WHO to prioritise Cochrane reviews: the case of antipsychotic drugs. International Journal of Mental Health Systems 5, 25.
Raghavan, R, Bright, CL, Shadoin, AL (2008). Towards a policy ecology of implementation of evidence-based practices in public mental health settings. Implementation Science 3, 2634.
Rosen, LJ, Noach, MB (2010). Systemic reviews on tobacco control from Cochrane and the Community Guide: different methods, similar findings. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 63, 596606.
Rosenbaum, SE, Glenton, C, Cracknell, J (2008). User experiences of evidence-based online resources for health professionals: user testing of the Cochrane Library. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 8, 3445.
Slomski, A (2012). US can draw insight from other nations' experiences with evidence-based medicine. Journal of American Medical Association 307, 15671569.
Stiles, PG, Boothroyd, RA, Dhont, K, Beiler, PF, Green, AE (2009). Adherence to practice guidelines, clinical outcomes, and costs among Medicaid enrollees with severe mental illness. Evaluation and the Health Professions 32, 6989.
Tanenbaum, SJ (2005). Evidence-based practice as mental health policy: three controversies and a caveat. Health Affairs 24, 163173.
Thase, ME (2008). Do antidepressants really work? A clinicians' guide to evaluating the evidence. Current Psychiatric Reports 10, 487494.
Tovey, D (2010). The impact of Cochrane reviews [editorial]. Cochrane Library. Retrieved 2 July 2012 from
Tricco, AC, Tetzlaff, J, Moher, D (2011). The art and science of knowledge synthesis. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 64, 1120.
Vasse, E, Vernooij-Dassen, M, Cantegreil, I, Franco, M, Dorenlots, P, Woods, B, Moniz-Cook, E (2012). Guidelines for psychosocial interventions in dementia care: a European survey and comparison. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 27, 4048.
Wale, JL, Belizan, M, Nadel, J, Jeffrey, C, Vij, SL (2011). The Cochrane Library review titles that are important to users of health care, a Cochrane Consumer Network project. Health Expectations. Retrieved 3 July 2012 from
Wittchen, HU, Jacobi, F, Rehm, J, Gustavsson, A, Svensson, M, Jönsson, B, Olesen, J, Allgulander, C, Alonso, J, Faravelli, C, Fratiglioni, L, Jennum, P, Lieb, R, Maercker, A, van Os, J, Preisig, M, Salvador-Carulla, L, Simon, R, Steinhausen, HC (2011). The size and burden of mental disorder and other disorders of the brain in Europe 2010. European Neuropsychopharmacology 21, 655679.
World Health Organization (2008). The Global Burden of Disease: 2004 Update. WHO Press: Geneva.
Yaffe, J, Montgomery, P, Hopewell, S, Sheppard, LD (2012). Empty reviews: a description and consideration of Cochrane systemic reviews with no included studies. Plos ONE 7, e36626.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences
  • ISSN: 2045-7960
  • EISSN: 2045-7979
  • URL: /core/journals/epidemiology-and-psychiatric-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed