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Interventions to promote mental health and wellbeing among young women


Research question

  • What interventions are effective to promote good mental health and wellbeing among young women aged 12-24?

Over the last two decades, there has been a steady increase in mental ill-health amongst women and this trend is largely driven by young women in their teens and twenties. Over a quarter of young women experience a common mental disorder which is almost three times more than young men. In addition, there is evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on young people and women.

Significant drivers of mental ill-health for young women include poverty, trauma, violence, discrimination and inequality. There is also inequality in the distribution of mental ill health because young women who face multiple forms of disadvantage are more likely to experience poor mental health. This is highlighted in a recent report that outlines the experiences of some of the most marginalised young women in England and Wales.

The Public Health Research (PHR) Programme wishes to commission research on the effectiveness of interventions to promote good mental health and wellbeing and prevent or reduce mental ill-health amongst young women. The Programme recognises that interventions might focus on young women’s experience of trauma, violence and abuse and use a trauma-informed approach. However, this call is not for evaluations of interventions that tackle or treat issues resulting from specific pathologies, for example eating disorders. Evaluations of such interventions might be more appropriate for the NIHR’s Health Technology Assessment Programme.

For this call, the Public Health Research Programme is interested in the evaluation of interventions that operate at a population level rather than an individual level.

Research areas

Research areas of interest could include (but are not limited to):

  • Public mental health interventions that focus on prevention of mental ill-health among young women.
  • Evaluations of interventions where the primary focus of the intervention is not necessarily on improving and promoting good mental health but the outcome might impact on wellbeing and mental health (positively and negatively). This could include, for example, gender specific youth projects which support young women living in poverty.
  • Programmes for young women’s mental health that take a whole communities approach. This could include interventions:
    o around settings such as schools, colleges, universities, work places, leisure services and venues, places of worship, community groups and services, health centres, criminal justice services; or
    o focusing on specific population groups such as young women from different ethnic minority groups, young women who identify as LGBT, or young women facing different forms of disadvantage.
  • Evaluations of interventions that address the multiple, interacting disadvantages that affect the most marginalised young women.
  • Evaluations of interventions to support pregnant young women for example, interventions to enhance social networks.
  • Evaluations of interventions that take a holistic, person-centred approach.
  • Peer support interventions.
  • Interventions related to social media / online images and messages.

The target demographic age group is girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 24. If the proposed research falls outside of this age bracket, researchers will need to provide justification in their application.

A range of study designs and outcome measures can be used. Researchers will need to identify and justify the most suitable methodological approach. Researchers will also need to specify key outcomes and how these will be measured in the short, medium and long term. Primary outcomes must be health related. For this call, the Public Health Research Programme will accept other outcomes, as long as the link to health can be justified. Cost-effectiveness is always of interest to policy makers and the Public Health Research Programme encourages researchers to consider including economic considerations in their application.

Researchers are encouraged to ensure that there is strong user involvement from the target audience in the design of the evaluation. Researchers should demonstrate the relevance of their proposed research to decision-makers and they might do this through involving them in the research team. Researchers should consider how they will share their findings with policy makers, service providers, lay and community audiences. Researchers are expected to be aware of other studies in this area and ensure their proposed research is complementary.

For further information on submitting an application to the PHR Programme, please refer to the supporting information for applicants submitting stage 1 and stage 2 applications