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Life review therapy for older adults with moderate depressive symptomatology: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial

  • J. Korte (a1), E. T. Bohlmeijer (a1), P. Cappeliez (a2), F. Smit (a3) (a4) and G. J. Westerhof (a1)...



Although there is substantial evidence for the efficacy of life review therapy as an early treatment of depression in later life, its effectiveness in natural settings has not been studied. The present study evaluates an intervention based on life review and narrative therapy in a large multi-site, pragmatic randomized controlled trial (RCT).


Life review therapy was compared with care as usual. The primary outcome was depressive symptoms; secondary outcomes were anxiety symptoms, positive mental health, quality of life, and current major depressive episode (MDE). To identify groups for whom the intervention was particularly effective, moderator analyses were carried out (on sociodemographic variables, personality traits, reminiscence functions, clinically relevant depressive and anxiety symptoms, and past MDEs).


Compared with care as usual (n=102), life review therapy (n=100) was effective in reducing depressive symptoms, at post-treatment (d=0.60, B=−5.3, p<0.001), at 3-month follow-up (d=0.50, B=−5.0, p<0.001) and for the intervention also at 9-month follow-up (t=5.7, p<0.001). The likelihood of a clinically significant change in depressive symptoms was significantly higher [odds ratio (OR) 3.77, p<0.001 at post-treatment; OR 3.76, p<0.001 at the 3-month follow-up]. Small significant effects were found for symptoms of anxiety and positive mental health. Moderator analyses showed only two significant moderators, the personality trait of extraversion and the reminiscence function of boredom reduction.


This study shows the effectiveness of life review therapy as an early intervention for depression in an ecologically valid context, supporting its applicability to a broad target group. The intervention is also effective in reducing anxiety symptoms and strengthening positive mental health.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: J. Korte, M.Sc., University of Twente, Department of Health, Psychology and Technology, Drienerlolaan 5, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands. (Email:


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