Peer support: what is it and does it work?

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This report summarises evidence from more than 1000 studies of peer support.  It sets out what peer support is, who is involved, the different types of support that can be offered, ways it can be provided, where it might be made available and when it might be offered.  It sets out the evidence for the effectiveness of different kinds of peer support in relation to people's experience and emotions, changes in behaviour and health outcomes and changes in service usage and cost.

Based on the findings of over 500 studies explicitly exploring its impact, the report find that in broad terms peer support:

  • has the potential to improve experience, psycho social outcomes, behaviour, health outcomes and service use among people with long term physcial and mental health conditions;
  • potentially improves experience and emotional aspects for carers, people from certain age and ethnic groups and those at risk, thought the impact on health outcomes and service use is unclear for these groups;
  • is most effective for improving health outcomes when facilitated by trained peers, lay people (not necessarily peers) or professionals;
  • is most effective for improving health outcomes when delivered one-to-one or in groups of more than ten people;
  • works well delivered face-to-face, by telephone or longlin;
  • is most effective for improving health outcomes when it is based around specific activities (such as exercise or choirs) and focuses on education, social support and physical support;
  • works well in a range of venues, including people's own homes, community venues, hospitals and health services in the community. 

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