Meta-analysis of Self-compassion Interventions for Pain and Psychological Symptoms Among Adults with Chronic Illness

Erin G. Mistretta, Mary C. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: Self-compassion interventions are increasingly used to address mental and physical health outcomes in individuals with chronic illness. This review integrates the available evidence to (1) determine the extent to which self-compassion interventions improve mental and physical health among adults with chronic illness, (2) investigate moderators of effect size, and (3) situate the current findings in the context of current practice of evidence-based approaches. Methods: Randomized and non-randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that evaluated self-compassion interventions among samples of adults with chronic illness (N = 21) were included in a meta-analysis that employed random effects models. Outcomes included depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, pain, quality of life, and self-compassion. Results: Overall, the studies included in the review were of low quality. Findings provided evidence that self-compassion interventions improved all within-person outcomes from pre- to post-intervention. In addition, self-compassion interventions had small effects on improvement in self-compassion compared to controls. Initial results showed small effects on improvement in depressive symptoms compared to controls, which became nonsignificant after trim-and-fill analyses. Length of intervention was a moderator of within-subject depressive symptoms and type of control condition and age were moderators of within-subject self-compassion. Conclusions: Compared to current evidence-based approaches, self-compassion interventions have small effects on improved self-compassion in individuals with chronic illness. However, more rigorous RCTs that include follow-up assessments are needed prior to determining whether self-compassion interventions are an effective treatment for co-morbid mental and physical health challenges among adults with chronic illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-284
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Adult
  • Chronic illness
  • Depression
  • Meta-analysis
  • Self-compassion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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