Network meta-analysis in health psychology and behavioural medicine: a primer

GJ Molloy, C Noone, Deborah Caldwell, Nicky Welton, J Newell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Progress in the science and practice of health psychology depends on the systematic synthesis of quantitative psychological evidence. Meta-analyses of experimental studies have led to important advances in understanding health-related behaviour change interventions. Fundamental questions regarding such interventions have been systematically investigated through synthesising relevant experimental evidence using standard pairwise meta-analytic procedures that provide reliable estimates of the magnitude, homogeneity and potential biases in effects observed. However, these syntheses only provide information about whether particular types of interventions work better than a control condition or specific alternative approaches. To increase the impact of health psychology on health-related policy-making, evidence regarding the comparative efficacy of all relevant intervention approaches – which may include biomedical approaches – is necessary. With the development of network meta-analysis (NMA), such evidence can be synthesised, even when direct head-to-head trials do not exist. However, care must be taken in its application to ensure reliable estimates of the effect sizes between interventions are revealed. This review paper describes the potential importance of NMA to health psychology, how the technique works and important considerations for its appropriate application within health psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Early online date5 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Apr 2018


  • Evidence synthesis
  • health behaviour change
  • meta-analysis
  • policy-making


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