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Background: In Iranian culture, transferring old parents to a nursing home is considered unacceptable and a sign of cruelty and heartless of children. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of the educational intervention based on Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) on mental health of the elderly in nursing homes.

Methods: This quasi-experimental study was implemented to determine the effect of the educational intervention using social-cognitive theory. The mental health promotion educational program was designed in 8 sessions of 45 min. Data were collected by demographic information questionnaire, mental health questionnaire based on SCT and general health questionnaire (GHQ-28). Data were analyzed by SPSS19, descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, t-test, Mann-Whitney, duplicate data variance, Friedman and general linear model.

Results: The result showed that educational intervention in the experiment group led to lower GHQ scores and therefore enhanced mental health (p < 0001). The variance analysis of duplicate data showed a significant difference between mean scores of mental health during the study (p < 0.03) and the effect of educational groups was also significant (p < 0001).

Conclusion: As a general conclusion, designing and implementing educational interventions by employing SCT based on individual, environmental and behavioral factors can significantly improve mental health of the elderly.