New Study: Peer Support Significantly Reduces Re-Admission to Acute Care Services


A new study published in The Lancet this month reported that peer support led to a significant reduction in re-admission to acute care service settings. According to Dr. Sonia Johnson, one of the study’s authors: “People discharged from community crisis services are often readmitted to acute care. Not only does this impede recovery, but also consumes resources that might otherwise be dedicated to longer term improvements in functioning and quality of life.”


The study, a randomized-control trial, the “gold standard” for human services research, involved 441 participants and was conducted in the UK. Roughly half of the participants received usual care following discharge from a crisis service, but were also connected with a peer support worker, who conducted ten sessions on how to use a recovery workbook. Topics in the workbook included “setting personal recovery goals, re-establishing their place in the community and support networks, identifying early warning signs and creating an action plan to avoid or delay relapse, and planning strategies to maintain wellbeing.” The other half of the participants received usual care following discharge, but only received the workbook by mail.


Participant responses to this peer-led intervention were promising: 72% (160/221) of people in the study attended at least three meetings with a peer support worker, and a third (65/198) attended all ten meetings.


The study found that after one year, 29% of participants who met with a peer support worker to complete a recovery workbook were readmitted to acute care, compared to 38% of participants who received only the workbook. As Dr. Johnson noted, “Peer support workers could provide support and encouragement that is particularly warm and empathetic because it is rooted in personal experience, as well as providing service users with a role model for their recovery.”


While the study’s conclusions were not entirely clear as to what specific aspects of this intervention were the most helpful in supporting people to avoid re-admission to acute care services, it’s one of the most promising research findings to date. We hope more rigorous research will continue to help build an even stronger evidence base for peer support.


To learn more about this study, and other research on peer support’s effectiveness, see:


Revisiting the Rationale and Evidence for Peer Support (Psychiatric Times)