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Meta-analysis on the placebo effect in the treatment of mental disorders

Centre for Psychiatry

Funding Body: East London NHS Foundation Trust
Project Investigator: Stefan Priebe


Mental health disorders are common and there have been around 500 trials published on mental health annually for the last five years. For decades, there has been the implicit assumption that placebos, in form of psychotherapeutic shams and in-active medication, have an effect in the treatment of mental disorders [1].

However, so far there has been little sound evidence as to whether a placebo effect exists in the treatment of mental disorders and, if so what its magnitude is [2].

This project therefore aims to use meta-analysis to collate the existing evidence in order to determine the size and significance of the placebo effect in mental disorders.

Activities & Outputs

The meta-analysis has synthesised the largest body of existing evidence comparing placebo to no treatment across different mental disorders. The review provides the evidence as to whether there is a placebo effect across different disorders, in particular for psychotherapeutic shams, and whether the effect size is similar to effect sizes identified in reviews on active psychotherapeutic treatments.

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