Introduction to the research on: the impact and effectiveness of meaningful activity for people with mental health problems
HARFLETT Naomi, JENNINGS Yasmin, LINSKY Kate
This short scoping review identifies research on the impact and effectiveness of meaningful activity for people with mental health problems. Due to the lack of consensus on what is meant by the terms ‘meaningful activity’ or ‘meaning activity’, the review focused on different activities, such as unpaid work and volunteering, horticulture, woodwork, arts and music, physical exercise and leisure. Searches were on a range of databases, including Social Care Online, and organisational websites for UK based research published from 2000. The review provides an overview of the quantity and quality of the research and a table summarising the 33 studies reviewed and their key findings. It also provides a summary of areas identified for future research. The review found that in the vast majority of the studies found people experience positive outcomes from participating in meaningful activity or occupation. These included: a sense of purpose or meaning to life, a structure or routine to the day, acquisition of skills, a sense of identity, social interaction and increased social networks, improved wellbeing, access to employment or education, improved confidence and improved self-esteem. However it notes that due to the high proportion of small-scale qualitative research studies, positive outcomes may be overstated. It also found no conclusive evidence to show that volunteering resulted in positive outcomes for people with mental health problems.