A Review of Self-Compassion as an Active Ingredient in the Prevention and Treatment of Anxiety and Depression in Young People

Sarah J. Egan, Clare S. Rees, Joanna Delalande, Danyelle Greene, Grace Fitzallen, Samantha Brown, Marianne Webb, Amy Finlay-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Previous meta-analyses have found higher self-compassion is associated with lower anxiety and depression. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of self-compassion as an active ingredient in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression in youth. This was conducted through (i) a systematic review of the literature and (ii) qualitative consultation with young people and researchers in self-compassion. Fifty studies met our inclusion criteria. Eight studies evaluated self-compassion interventions among youth aged 14–24, and the remaining studies measured the association between self-compassion and anxiety, and/or depression among this age group. Qualitative interviews were conducted with four self-compassion researchers. Interviews were also conducted in two rounds of consultation with 20 young people (M age = 18.85 years, age range 14–24 years). Higher self-compassion was related to lower symptoms of anxiety, r = − 0.49, 95% CI (− 0.57, − 0.42), and depression, r = − 0.50, 95% CI (− 0.53, − 0.47). There was evidence for self-compassion interventions in decreasing anxiety and depression in young people. Consultation with young people indicated they were interested in self-compassion interventions; however, treatment should be available in a range of formats and tailored to address diversity. Self-compassion experts emphasised the importance of decreasing self-criticism as a reason why self-compassion interventions work. The importance of targeting self-criticism is supported by the preferences of young people who said they would be more likely to engage in a treatment reducing self-criticism than increasing self-kindness. Future research is required to add to the emerging evidence for self-compassion interventions decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression in young people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-403
Number of pages19
JournalAdministration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research
Issue number3
Early online date24 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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