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Peer Support-- Get the Facts

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The Evidence:

Increased quality of life outcomes:

  • Instillation of hope through positive self-disclosure, role modeling self-care of one's condition, empathy and unconditional positive regard may lead to higher demands/expectations for consumers. [1]
  • Peer support interventions were more effective than treatment as usual in reducing symptoms of depression. [2]
  • Individuals receiving peer support are more likely to have employment. [3]
  • Mental Health Peer Connection's Life Coaches helped 53% of individuals with employment goals to successfully return to work in the Buffalo, NY area. [4]
  • Individuals who work as peer supporters report developing more skills and confidence related to their own recovery. [5]

Increased engagement rates:

  • Peer support led to improved relationships with providers and social supports, increased satisfaction with the treatment experience overall, reduced rates of relapse, and increased retention in treatment. [6]
  • Peers and programs like WRAP increase consumer self-advocacy with providers. [7]
  • Individuals working with peers are more likely to advocate for their personal goals. [8]
  • Working with peers connected to local community resources significantly increases the likelihood of engagement with primary medical care. [9]
  • Participants who worked with peer supporters felt their providers were more validating and reported more positive provider relationship qualities than those who did not work with peer providers. [10]
  • A Mental Health America and Kaiser Permanente Peer Support Pilot Study showed participants who received peer support had increased trust in services and increased team collaboration. [11]

Reduced re-hospitalization rates:

  • RI International (formerly Recovery Innovations in Arizona) saw a 56% reduction in hospital readmission rates, in addition to a 36% reduction in the use of seclusion and a 48% reduction in the use of restraints. [12]
  • Pierce County Washington reduced involuntary hospitalization by 32% leading to a savings of 1.99 million dollars in one year. [13]
  • Optum Pierce Peer Bridger programs served 125 people and had 79.2% reduction in hospital admission year over year resulting in $550,215 in savings; 100% of consumers had been hospitalized prior to having a peer coach, only 3.4% were hospitalized after getting a coach. [14]
  • 90% of PEOPLe Inc's Rose House crisis respite programs (Orange County, NY) participants did not return to a hospital in the following two years. [15]
  • Western NY's Housing Options Made Easy helped 70% of residents to successfully stay out of the hospital in the following year. [16]
  • Mental Health America's peer run Social Self-Directed Care, a social inclusion program reduced re-hospitalization rates by over 90%. [17] 

Reduced days inpatient:

  • Participants assigned a peer mentor had significantly fewer re-hospitalizations & fewer hospital days. [18]
  • TN PeerLink Program showed a significant decrease of 90% in average number of acute inpatient days per month. [19]
  • WI PeerLink program showed 71% decrease in number of acute inpatient days per month. [20]
  • In two of their managed care contracts, Optum saw an 80.5% average reduction of inpatient days and a 32% reduction in involuntary hospitalizations for individuals who had at least two hospitalizations on average per year. [21]

Increased whole health:

  • The preliminary study findings of the Peer Support Whole Health and Resiliency (PSWHR) randomized controlled trial demonstrated the following results:
    • 100% self-reported reaching whole health goal (i.e., eat five healthy meals per week, jog 20 minutes twice a week, etc.)
    • Significant decreases in bodily pain
    • Significant increases in hopefulness
    • 100% liked getting peer support
    • 78% of participants reported being very satisfied
    • 100% strongly liked listening to other people's challenges and successes
    • 100% strongly liked getting the chance to form meaningful relationships with PSWHR teachers
    • 89% self-reported improvement in whole health since starting PSWHR [22]
  • Individuals receiving peer support show a significant decrease in substance use. [23]

Lowered overall cost of services:

  • A Federally Qualified Health Center in Denver (FQHC) that utilized peer support has an ROI of $2.28 for every $1 spent. In a different program, Recovery Mentors provided individualized support for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: over 9 months, results in .89 vs 1.53 hospitalizations and 10.08 vs. 19.08 days hospitalized. [24]
  • An effort to reduce depression/anxiety disorders in India demonstrated a 30% decrease in prevalence, 36% decrease in suicide attempts, and 4.43 fewer days of no work or reduced work in previous 30 days, making it cost-effective and cost saving. [25]
  • In a 2013 study, 28.7% of respondents were not employed or had transitional/sheltered employment before CPS training. As a result of their work as CPS, 60% of respondents transitioned off or reduced public assistance and reduced their use of mental health care services. [26]

Reports and Resources:

[1] Davidson, L., Bellamy, C., Guy, K. and Miller, R. (2012), Peer support among persons with severe mental illnesses: a review of evidence and experience. World Psychiatry, 11: 123–128. doi: 10.1016/j.wpsyc.2012.05.009

[2] Pfeiffer, P., Heisler, M., Piette, J., Rogers, M., & Valenstein, M. (2010). Efficacy of peer support interventions for depression: A meta-analysis. General Hospital Psychiatry, 33(1), 29-36.

[3] Repper, J., & Carter, T. (2011). A review of the literature on peer support in mental health services. Journal of Mental Health20(4), 392-411.

[4] Bergeson, S. (2011). Cost Effectiveness of Using Peers as Providers. Retrieved from

[5] Salzer, M., Darr, N., Calhoun, G., Boyer, W., Loss, R., Goessel, J. Brusilovskiy, E. (2013). Benefits of working as a certified peer specialist: Results from a statewide survey. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 36(3), 219-221. doi:10.1037/prj0000016

[6] Reif 2014, cited in Enhancing the Peer Provider Workforce: Recruitment, Supervision and Retention. (2014). Retrieved from

[7] Jones, N., Corrigan, P., James, D., Parker, J., & Larson, N. (2013). Peer support, self-determination, and treatment engagement: A qualitative investigation. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 36(3), 209-214.

[8] Chinman M, Lucksted A, Gresen R, et al. Early experiences of employing consumer-providers in the VA. Psychiatr Serv 2008; 59(11): 1315-21, cited in Miyamoto, Y., & Sono, T. (2012). Lessons from Peer Support Among Individuals with Mental Health Difficulties: A Review of the Literature. Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health : CP & EMH8, 22–29. doi:10.2174/1745017901208010022

[9] Griswold, K. S., Pastore, P. A., Homish, G. G., & Leonard, K. E. (2010). A randomized trial: Are care navigators effective in connecting patients to primary care after psychiatric crisis? Community Mental Health Journal, 46, 398–402.

[10] Sells, D., Davidson, l., Falzer, P., & Rowe, M. (2006). The treatment relationship in peer-based and regular case management services for clients with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 57 (8), 1179-1184.

[11] Kaiser Permanente Care Management Institute. Behavioral Health Peer Support Specialist Pilot. (February 2016)

[12]  Recovery Innovations of Arizona Programs. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2015, from Programs and Outcomes.pdf

[13] Bergeson, S. (2011). Cost Effectiveness of Using Peers as Providers. Retrieved from

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] Mental Health America, It's My Life: Social Self-Directed Care (2015) 

[18] Sledge, W., Lawless, M., Sells, D., Wieland, M., O'Connell, M., & Davidson, L. (2011). Effectiveness of Peer Support in Reducing Readmissions of Persons With Multiple Psychiatric Hospitalizations. Psychiatric Services, 62(5), 541-544. Retrieved May 28, 2015, from

[19] Bergeson 2011.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Cook, J. A. (Director) (2014, January 1). Randomized Controlled Trial Study of Peer Support Whole Health & Resiliency (PSWHR). Lecture conducted from University of Illinois at Chicago Center on Psychiatric Disability & Co-Occurring Medical Conditions.

[23] Davidson, et al. 2012.

[24] Global Evidence for Peer Support: Humanizing Health Care. (2014). Retrieved from

[25] Ibid.

[26] Salzer, et al. 2013.

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