Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness

Improve Stress, Sleep, and Memory with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation trains you to be mindful of your incoming thoughts, weakening both the physiological link and strength that each thought has on you, as well as decreasing the frequency of incoming sleep-preventing thoughts. Meditation forces the worrywart, insomnia causing mind to shift into the present moment, while realizing that the day is now over, and tomorrow is not yet here.” – EOC Institute

 

It is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Over 70 million Americans suffer from disorders of sleep and about half of these have a chronic disorder. It has been estimated that about 4% of Americans revert to sleeping pills. But, these do not always produce high quality sleep and can have problematic side effects. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness and can even lead to memory problems. So, there is a need to find better methods to improve sleep. Mindfulness-based practices have been reported to improve sleep amount and quality, reduce stress and improve memory. It is not known, however, how these effects of mindfulness are related.

 

In today’s Research News article “Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363402/ ), Brisbon and Lachman measured adult participants in the Boston Longitudinal Study for mindfulness, perceived stress, sleep quality, memory problems, physical health, openness, and neuroticism. The relationships between these measured were then explored with a regression analysis.

 

They found that stress was a key, with higher levels of perceived stress associated with poorer sleep quality and greater memory problems and neuroticism. Mindfulness was only slightly associated with lower perceived stress and neuroticism and greater openness and no significant relationship with sleep quality. A mediation analysis revealed that mindfulness was associated with lower memory problems indirectly by being associated with lower perceived stress which was associated with memory problems. Hence, high mindfulness was related to lower perceived stress which was, in turn, related to memory problems.

 

It should be kept in mind that the preset study was correlational and no conclusions about causation can be reached. But, these results suggest that stress is a key factor in sleep and memory problems and that mindfulness, by being associated with lower stress, is related to improved memory. It remains for future research to manipulate mindfulness and thereby determine if there are causal connections. But, given the increased memory problems associated with aging, it would be important to establish whether mindfulness may be helpful in delaying or reversing the deterioration of memory.

 

So, improve stress, sleep, and memory with mindfulness.

 

“We were surprised to find that the effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality was large and above and beyond the effect of the sleep hygiene education program, Not only did the researchers find that mindfulness could help reduce sleep problems in older adults, but that “this effect on sleep appears to carry over into reducing daytime fatigue and depression symptoms.” – David S. Black

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Brisbon, N. M., & Lachman, M. E. (2017). Dispositional Mindfulness and Memory Problems: The Role of Perceived Stress and Sleep Quality. Mindfulness, 8(2), 379–386. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0607-8

 

Abstract

There is a growing body of evidence exploring the beneficial effects of mindfulness on stress, sleep quality, and memory, though the mechanisms involved are less certain. The present study explored the roles of perceived stress and sleep quality as potential mediators between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems. Data were from a Boston area subsample of the Midlife in the United States study (MIDUS-II) assessed in 2004–2006, and again approximately one year later (N=299). As expected, higher dispositional mindfulness was associated with lower perceived stress and better sleep quality. There was no direct association found between mindfulness and subjective memory problems, however, there was a significant indirect effect through perceived stress, although not with sleep quality. The present findings suggest that perceived stress may play a mediating role between dispositional mindfulness and subjective memory problems, in that those with higher mindfulness generally report experiencing less stress than those with lower mindfulness, which may be protective of memory problems in everyday life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5363402/

 

Improve Sleep with Mindfulness

Improve Sleep with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we lose awareness of the present moment, our minds get stuck in maladaptive ways of thinking. For example, you might be trying to go to sleep but your mind gets lost thinking about all the groceries you need to buy. Deep, relaxed breathing is forgotten. And once you realize sleep isn’t happening, your muscles tense and your thought process quickly shifts to “I’m not falling asleep! I have XYZ to do this week and I won’t be able to function tomorrow.” The body seizes up, breathing and heart rate can both quicken, and falling sleep becomes more difficult.” – Shelby Freedman Harris

 

Modern society has become more around-the-clock and more complex producing considerable pressure and stress on the individual. The advent of the internet and smart phones has exacerbated the problem. The resultant psychological distress can impair sleep. Indeed, it is estimated that over half of Americans sleep too little due to stress. As a result, people today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago. Not having a good night’s sleep has adverse effects upon the individual’s health, well-being, and happiness. So, non-drug methods to improve sleep are needed. Contemplative practices have been reported to improve mindfulness and, in turn, improve sleep amount and quality and help with insomnia. But, how mindfulness improves sleep has not been explored.

 

In today’s Research News article “Potential Mechanisms of Mindfulness in Improving Sleep and Distress.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866834/ ), Lau and colleagues examine possible intermediaries that are effected by mindfulness and which, in turn, influence sleep. They recruited a large sample of meditation naïve, Chinese, adults and measured them over the internet for mindfulness, sleep quality, depression, anxiety, and stress. They then performed regression analysis of the associations among these variables.

 

Replicating previous findings, they found that the higher the levels mindfulness, especially acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness), the greater the sleep quality and the lower the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. They also found that the higher the levels of psychological distress, the higher the levels of anxiety, depression, and stress and the lower the levels of mindfulness and sleep quality. So, mindfulness, especially acceptance, was associated with better psychological health and sleep, while psychological distress acted in the opposite direction.

 

They then tested models that asserted various pathways whereby mindfulness affected sleep quality. They found that the higher the level of acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness), the greater the impact of awareness (observe facet of mindfulness) on lower general psychological distress and higher the sleep quality. This suggests that acceptance associations with higher sleep quality may be in part mediated by the association of acceptance with lower levels of psychological distress and in turn improved sleep quality.

 

These findings begin the unravel the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves sleep. It suggests that acceptance (non-react facet of mindfulness) is a very important component of the associations with better sleep and that it, in part, works through associations with lower levels of psychological distress.

 

So, improve sleep with mindfulness.

 

“When I first started using mindfulness to get sleep, I believed I needed to be meditating at bedtime if I wanted to cure my insomnia. I was completely wrong! I learned that my worries about sleep were happening all day long. I started using mindfulness during the day to notice those worries and learn to accept that I may not get as much sleep as I hope for each night. . . . worrying about sleep works against the process of falling asleep. All of those concerns about your insomnia just might be making it harder to let go at the end of the day, to relax and let your body rest.” – Mary Sauer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Lau, W. K. W., Leung, M.-K., Wing, Y.-K., & Lee, T. M. C. (2018). Potential Mechanisms of Mindfulness in Improving Sleep and Distress. Mindfulness, 9(2), 547–555. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0796-9

 

Abstract

The mechanisms of mindfulness-improved sleep quality are not extensively studied. Recently, attention monitoring/awareness and acceptance in mindfulness have been proposed to be the underlying mechanisms that tackle distress and related disorders. The current study tested if acceptance moderated the relationship of awareness with psychological distress and sleep quality, and verified that psychological distress mediated the relationship between mindfulness and sleep quality in a group of community-dwelling healthy adults. Three hundred and sixty-four healthy Chinese non-meditators (age 18–65, 59% female) completed a set of online self-reported questionnaires in Chinese via SurveyMonkey. Awareness and acceptance were measured by Observe and Nonreact facets in the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), respectively. General psychological distress levels and sleep quality were reflected in the global score of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scales (DASS) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), respectively. Model 1 and model 8 in the PROCESS macro for SPSS were used to assess the moderation and moderated mediation effects. Increased level of acceptance (Nonreact) weakened the positive relationship between awareness (Observe) and poor sleep quality (β = −0.0154, p = 0.0123), which was partially mediated through perceived psychological distress (β = −0.0065, 95% bias-corrected bootstrap CI = −0.0128, −0.0004) in a group of community-dwelling healthy adults. Our findings suggested that awareness and acceptance could be the mechanisms of mindfulness interventions in improving sleep quality, partly via reducing psychological stress.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866834/

 

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with Work-Place Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with Work-Place Mindfulness

 

“Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they run rampant. It’s a way of reprogramming your mind to think in healthier, less stressful, ways.” – Drew Hansen

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired physical and mental health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. There is a need, however, to better document the benefits of these programs.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_568639_69_Psycho_20180313_arts_A ), Kersemaekers and colleagues recruited employees in major European corporations and provided them with a workplace mindfulness program that consisted of 2 day-long training days plus eight 2.5 h-long sessions implemented in a group setting and included trainings in mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, pausing meditation, body scan and compassion meditation. They were also encouraged to practice at home. Participants were measured one month before, just before, and after the program for burnout, perceived stress, mindfulness, well-being, team environment; including organizational climate, team climate and personal performance, and program feasibility and satisfaction.

 

They compared the changes during the one-month baseline period to those occurring during the mindfulness training period and found that after training there were significantly greater reductions in burnout, perceived stress, particularly tension and worry, and organizational stress, and significantly greater improvements in psychological well-being and mindfulness, including presence and acceptance. There were also significant improvements in the participants perceptions of the organizational culture, including team decision making and cooperation, of the organizational climate, including atmosphere and respect, and of personal performance and productivity. There were high compliance and participation rates in the program. Hence, the workplace mindfulness program appeared to be feasible, safe, and effective.

 

The results have to be interpreted with caution as there wasn’t a control group. But, the fact that there was a one-month baseline where reactivity, bias, and time-based changes could be assessed, the conclusion would appear to be guardedly valid. Workplace mindfulness training improved the psychological well-being and mindfulness of the workers, the organizational climate, and the workers productivity. This suggests that workplace mindfulness programs can be of substantial benefit to the workers and the organization.

 

So, Improve Psychological Well-Being and Productivity with work-Place mindfulness.

 

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” – Lao Tzu

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kersemaekers W, Rupprecht S, Wittmann M, Tamdjidi C, Falke P, Donders R, Speckens A and Kohls N (2018) A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Front. Psychol. 9:195. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195

 

Background: Mindfulness trainings are increasingly offered in workplace environments in order to improve health and productivity. Whilst promising, there is limited research on the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions in workplace settings.

Objective: To examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a Workplace Mindfulness Training (WMT) in terms of burnout, psychological well-being, organizational and team climate, and performance.

Methods: This is a preliminary field study in four companies. Self-report questionnaires were administered up to a month before, at start of, and right at the end of the WMT, resulting in a pre-intervention and an intervention period. There was no separate control group. A total of 425 participants completed the surveys on the different time points. Linear mixed model analyses were used to analyze the data.

Results: When comparing the intervention period with the pre-intervention period, significantly greater improvements were found in measures of burnout (mean difference = 0.3, p < 0.001), perceived stress (mean difference = -0.2, p < 0.001), mindfulness [mean difference = 1.0 for the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI) and 0.8 for the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), both p < 0.001], and well-being (mean difference = 0.4, p < 0.001). Additionally, greater increases in team climate, organizational climate and personal performance were reported during the intervention compared to the pre-intervention period with largest improvements in team cooperation (mean difference = 0.3, p < 0.001), productivity (mean difference = 0.5, p < 0.001), and stress (mean difference = -0.4, p < 0.001). Effect sizes were large for mindfulness (d > 0.8), moderate for well-being, burnout and perceived stress (d = 0.5–0.8), and ranged from low to moderate for organizational and team climate and personal performance (d = 0.2–0.8).

Conclusion: These preliminary data suggest that compared to the pre-intervention period, the intervention period was associated with greater reductions in burnout and perceived stress, improvements in mindfulness, well-being, and increases in team and organizational climate and personal performance. Due to design limitations, no conclusions can be drawn on the extent to which the WMT or non-specific factors such as time have contributed to the findings. Further studies, preferably using randomized controlled designs with longer follow up periods are needed to evaluate whether the associations found can be attributed to the WMT and whether these sustain after the training.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_568639_69_Psycho_20180313_arts_A

 

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

Improve Stress Related Disease Symptoms with Mindfulness in Nature

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Nature is always here and now. Your breath, your senses, anything around you. When you are being aware of the life within you and around you, you are being mindful of this present moment, and it will always calm you down. You can not do nature, you can just be there. Being is calming.” – Hanne Suorza

 

Stress is an integral part of life. People often think of stress as a bad thing. But, it is actually essential to the health of the body. In fact, we invest time and resources in stressing ourselves, e.g ridding rollercoasters, sky diving, competing in sports, etc. We say we love a challenge, but, challenges are all stressful. So, we actually love to stress ourselves. In moderation, it is healthful and provides interest and fun to life. If stress, is high or is prolonged, however, it can be problematic. It can significantly damage our physical and mental health and even reduce our longevity, leading to premature deaths. So, it is important that we develop methods to either reduce or control high or prolonged stress or reduce our responses to it.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. It has long been reported that walking in nature elevates mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But, there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that conducting walking meditation in nature might potentiate the effects by combining two mood enhancing practices.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/  ), Corazon and colleagues recruited adult patients with stress-related diseases who had been not able to work for at least the last three months. They were randomly assigned to receive either a mindfulness nature-based therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The mindfulness nature-based therapy occurred 3 times per week for 3 hours each session for 10 weeks and consisted “of five interrelated components: (i) individual therapeutic conversations based on CBT; (ii) individual and group mindfulness exercises, such as mindful walking in the garden; (iii) individual and social gardening activities, depending on the season, which integrates training in mindful awareness; (iv) individual relaxation and reflection time in the garden; and (v) homework to practice the techniques introduced.” The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was a group based therapy that occurred twice per week for 1 hour each session for 10 weeks. From the government records the participants amount of sick leave from work and health care consumption were recorded over the year following completion of treatment.

They found that the participants in both the mindfulness nature-based therapy and the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) had progressively less sick leave over the 12 months following the treatment such that 72% of the participants reported no sick leave at all during month 12. In addition, there were significant reductions (31%) in the number of visits to physicians over the follow-up period. Hence, both treatment programs resulted in significant improvements in stress-related disease impacts on work life and healthcare consumption.

 

It needs to be mentioned that since participants in both treatments improved and there was not a no-treatment comparison condition, it cannot be concluded that the treatments produced the improvements. The improvements may have been due to spontaneous recovery over the years, time. Future research needs to contain other comparison conditions. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging suggesting that CBT and mindfulness nature-based therapy may be effective treatments for stress-related diseases; easing the suffering of the individuals and reducing the load on the health care and sick leave systems.

 

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow” – Henry David Thoreau

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Corazon, S. S., Nyed, P. K., Sidenius, U., Poulsen, D. V., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2018). A Long-Term Follow-Up of the Efficacy of Nature-Based Therapy for Adults Suffering from Stress-Related Illnesses on Levels of Healthcare Consumption and Sick-Leave Absence: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 137. http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15010137

 

Abstract

Stress-related illnesses are a growing health problem in the Western world; which also has economic significance for society. As a consequence; there is a growing demand for effective treatments. The study investigates the long-term efficacy of the Nacadia® nature-based therapy (NNBT) by comparing it to the efficacy of a validated cognitive behavioral therapy, called STreSS. The study is designed as a randomized controlled trial in which 84 participants are randomly allocated between the treatments. Long-term efficacy is investigated through data extracts from the national database of Statistics Denmark on the sick leave and the health-care consumption. The results show that both the NNBT and the STreSS lead to a significant decrease in number of contacts with a general practitioner in the period from twelve months prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment; and, a significant decrease in long-term sick leave from the month prior to treatment to twelve months after treatment. The positive long-term effects provide validation for the NNBT as an efficient treatment of stress-related illnesses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800236/

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

Improve College Students Responses to Stress with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga is a practice of uniting the mind and physical body as one. It combines breathing exercise, meditation, and physical positions. This combination is believed to reduce many physical and mental ailments that are caused by stress.” – Rebecca Chasar

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the college students’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. In, addition, exercise if also know to reduce responses to stress. But, nearly half of college students are physically inactive. So, yoga, which is both a mindfulness practice and a physical activity should be particularly effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/  ), Tripathi and colleagues review the published research literature on the effectiveness of yoga practice to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress in college students.

 

They report yoga training has been found to reduce autonomic arousal, reducing sympathetic nervous system activity and increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. Since, physiological arousal is characteristic of stress responding, yoga practice reduces this physiological marker of stress. Yoga practice reduces perceived stress, tension, sleepiness, worry, and negative emotions and increases relaxation, mental quiet, peace, rest, strength, awareness and joy, thereby improving psychological well-being. Hence, the existing research suggests that yoga practice may be valuable in helping college students cope with the physical and mental consequences of stress and thereby improve their performance in school.

 

So, improve college students responses to stress with yoga.

 

“As science continues to understand the negative effects of stress on our mental and physical bodies, techniques like meditation and yoga that were once considered fringe are becoming prolifically mainstream.  If we can begin to understand and utilize these techniques before stress becomes an issue, then these tools can be even more valuable.” – Kelly Golden

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tripathi, M. N., Kumari, S., & Ganpat, T. S. (2018). Psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in college students. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, 7, 43. http://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_74_17

 

Abstract

College students are vulnerable to a critical period in developmental maturation, facing rigorous academic work, and learning how to function independently. Physical activities such as running and bicycling have been shown to improve mood and relieve stress. However, college students often have low levels of physical activity. Yoga is an ancient physical and mental activity that affects mood and stress. However, studies examining the psychophysiological effects of yoga are rare in peer-reviewed journals. The aim of this study is to establish preliminary evidence for the psychophysiological effects of yoga on stress in young-adult college students. The present study suggests that yoga has positive effects on a psychophysiological level that leads to decreased levels of stress in college student. Further research is needed to examine the extent to which different types of yogic practices address the needs of different college subpopulations (e.g., overweight, sedentary, and smokers).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5868218/

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.” – Julieta Galante

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many students and counseling centers can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, Smartphone Apps have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps.

 

In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/ ), Lee and Jung recruited university students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list condition or to work with a mindfulness app (DeStressify) for a month, 5 days per week for 3 to 20 minutes per day. They were measured before and after the training period for perceived stress, anxiety, depression, sleep quality, health-related quality of life, work productivity, and app use.

 

They found that after mindfulness app training the students reported significant reductions in perceived stress, fatigue, and anxiety and significant increases in general health-related quality of life, energy, and productivity. A lack in the study was that mindfulness was not measured. So, it cannot be concluded that improvements in mindfulness produced by the App was responsible for the benefits. Nevertheless, these are interesting and potentially important results. They suggest that the use of a mindfulness app by university students can provide improvements in physical and mental health and productivity. This can be important for the students’ success in school by making them more energetic and healthy and with less emotional disruption.

 

This is particularly important as the app does not require expensive staff time. It can be used at the busy students’ convenience in both location and time. And it is very easy and inexpensive to use and can be distributed widely. Given the mindfulness app can also improve the students’ well-being, it would seem ideal for use by college students.

 

So, improve student mental health with a mindfulness App.

 

“If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” – Elizabeth Hoge

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Lee, R. A., & Jung, M. E. (2018). Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial. JMIR Mental Health, 5(1), e2. http://doi.org/10.2196/mental.8324

 

Abstract

Background

One in five Canadians experience mental health issues with those in the age range of 15 to 24 years being most at risk of a mood disorder. University students have shown significantly higher rates of mental health problems than the general public. Current university support services are limited by factors such as available staff and finances, and social stigma has frequently been identified as an additional barrier that prevents students from accessing these resources. Mobile health (mHealth) apps are one form of alternative health support that is discrete and accessible to students, and although they are recognized as a promising alternative, there is limited research demonstrating their efficacy.

Objective

The aim of this study was to evaluate a mindfulness-based app’s (“DeStressify”) efficacy on stress, anxiety, depressive symptomology, sleep behavior, work or class absenteeism, work or school productivity, and quality of life (QoL) among university students.

Methods

Full-time undergraduate students at a Canadian university with smartphones and Internet access were recruited through in-class announcements and on-campus posters. Participants randomized into an experimental condition were given and instructed to use the DeStressify app 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Control condition participants were wait-listed. All participants completed pre- and postintervention Web-based surveys to self-assess stress, anxiety, depressive symptomatology, sleep quality, and health-related QoL.

Results

A total of 206 responses were collected at baseline, with 163 participants completing the study (86 control, 77 experimental). Using DeStressify was shown to reduce trait anxiety (P=.01) and improve general health (P=.001), energy (P=.01), and emotional well-being (P=.01) in university students, and more participants in the experimental condition believed their productivity improved between baseline and postintervention measurements than the number of participants expected to believe so randomly by chance (P=.01). The app did not significantly improve stress, state anxiety, physical and social functioning, and role limitations because of physical or emotional health problems or pain (P>.05).

Conclusions

Mindfulness-based apps may provide an effective alternative support for university students’ mental health. Universities and other institutions may benefit from promoting the use of DeStressify or other mindfulness-based mHealth apps among students who are interested in methods of anxiety management or mindfulness-based self-driven health support. Future steps include examining DeStressify and similar mHealth apps over a longer period and in university staff and faculty.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/

 

Improve Student Resilience to Stress with Mindfulness

Improve Student Resilience to Stress with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periods.” – Julieta Galante

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school. The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede the student’s mental health, well-being, and school performance.

 

It is, for the most part, beyond the ability of the individual to change the environment to reduce stress, so it is important that methods be found to reduce the individuals’ responses to stress; to make them more resilient when high levels of stress occur. Contemplative practices including meditation, mindfulness training, and yoga practice have been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in increasing resilience and coping with the school environment and for both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may be helpful for college students to better cope with stress and improve their well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/ ), Galante and colleagues recruited healthy college students and randomly assigned them to receive either 8 weeks of mindfulness training or to support as usual from the university counseling center. The mindfulness course consisted of 8 weekly sessions of 75-90 minutes teaching mindfulness skills adapted for college students. The mindfulness students were encouraged to practice for 15 minutes daily at home. They were measured before and after training and during the examination period for psychological distress, mental health problems, well-being, sleep and activity levels, examination scores, and altruism.

 

They found that after training and during the examination period the students who had received the mindfulness training had significantly less psychological distress and greater well-being than the support as usual students. Hence mindfulness training appeared to improve the students psychological state in general and particularly during the stressful examination period. This suggests that the training improved the students’ resilience in the face of stress and this in turn improved their psychological state. Training in mindfulness may be an important component in education to improve the students’ abilities to cope with the pressure and stresses of higher education.

 

So, improve student resilience to stress with mindfulness.

 

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.” – Julieta Galante

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Julieta Galante, Géraldine Dufour, Maris Vainre, Adam P Wagner, Jan Stochl, Alice Benton, Neal Lathia, Emma Howarth, Prof Peter B Jones. A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Lancet Public Health. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Feb 15. Published in final edited form as: Lancet Public Health. 2018 Feb; 3(2): e72–e81. Published online 2017 Dec 19. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30231-1

 

Summary

Background

The rising number of young people going to university has led to concerns about an increasing demand for student mental health services. We aimed to assess whether provision of mindfulness courses to university students would improve their resilience to stress.

Methods

We did this pragmatic randomised controlled trial at the University of Cambridge, UK. Students aged 18 years or older with no severe mental illness or crisis (self-assessed) were randomly assigned (1:1), via remote survey software using computer-generated random numbers, to receive either an 8 week mindfulness course adapted for university students (Mindfulness Skills for Students [MSS]) plus mental health support as usual, or mental health support as usual alone. Participants and the study management team were aware of group allocation, but allocation was concealed from the researchers, outcome assessors, and study statistician. The primary outcome was self-reported psychological distress during the examination period, as measured with the Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation Outcome Measure (CORE–OM), with higher scores indicating more distress. The primary analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, number ACTRN12615001160527.

Findings

Between Sept 28, 2015, and Jan 15, 2016, we randomly assigned 616 students to the MSS group (n=309) or the support as usual group (n=307). 453 (74%) participants completed the CORE–OM during the examination period and 182 (59%) MSS participants completed at least half of the course. MSS reduced distress scores during the examination period compared with support as usual, with mean CORE–OM scores of 0·87 (SD 0·50) in 237 MSS participants versus 1·11 (0·57) in 216 support as usual participants (adjusted mean difference –0·14, 95% CI –0·22 to –0·06; p=0·001), showing a moderate effect size (β –0·44, 95% CI –0·60 to –0·29; p<0·0001). 123 (57%) of 214 participants in the support as usual group had distress scores above an accepted clinical threshold compared with 88 (37%) of 235 participants in the MSS group. On average, six students (95% CI four to ten) needed to be offered the MSS course to prevent one from experiencing clinical levels of distress. No participants had adverse reactions related to self-harm, suicidality, or harm to others.

Interpretation

Our findings show that provision of mindfulness training could be an effective component of a wider student mental health strategy. Further comparative effectiveness research with inclusion of controls for non-specific effects is needed to define a range of additional, effective interventions to increase resilience to stress in university students.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5813792/

 

Improve Heart Disease with Mindfulness

Improve Heart Disease with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“it is not the stress in our life, but the reaction to stress that is so potentially harmful to our health, including cardiovascular health. Hence, being in a potentially very stressful profession, meditation and relaxation techniques are extremely important and useful to minimize these unhealthy reactions to stress.” – Joon Sup Lee

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.” (Centers for Disease Control). A myriad of treatments has been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. But the safest effective treatments are lifestyle changes. These include quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients recovering from a heart attack, emphasize these lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, 60% of cardiac patients decline participation, making these patients at high risk for another attack.

 

Other safe and effective treatments for cardiovascular disease are contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of lifestyle changes needed to prevent heart disease such as smoking cessationweight reduction, and stress reduction. Although death from heart disease is decreasing in men it is actually increasing in women. So, there is a need to study the effectiveness of mindfulness practice for the treatment of cardiovascular disease in women.

 

In today’s Research News article “Impact of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Therapy on Myocardial Function and Endothelial Dysfunction in Female Patients with Microvascular Angina.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5762694/ ), Kim and colleagues recruited women who were diagnosed with microvascular angina which is “heart disease that affects the heart’s smallest coronary artery blood vessels. Causes of microvascular angina: Spasms within the walls of these very small arterial blood vessels causes reduced blood flow to the heart muscle leading to a type of chest pain referred to as microvascular angina.” (American Heart Association). The women were provided with an 8-week, 2.5 hour once-a-week program of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) which includes of meditation, yoga, and body scan practices and on hour per day of home practice. Participants were measured for heart function and stress parameters before and after the 8-week practice.

 

Kim and colleagues found that following the 8-week MBSR program there was a marked and significant decrease in most stress parameters including somatization, compulsivity, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation, and psychoticism. Importantly there were improvements in cardiovascular functions including a decrease in systolic blood pressure and improvements in heart left ventricular function and heart arterial blood vessel function. Additionally, they found that the greater the reduction in the stress parameters the greater the improvements in heart function.

 

Conclusions from this study must be tempered as there wasn’t a comparison group included in the study, only females were examined, and no short- or long-term follow-up was included. But previous research has clearly established that mindfulness training, including MBSR, produces significant reductions in the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improves cardiovascular function. These prior findings combined with the present findings makes the case that MBSR reduces stress response which in turn improves cardiovascular function. This is very important for the promotion of longevity and well being in everyone but particularly for patients with cardiovascular disease.

 

So, improve heart disease with mindfulness,

 

“an analysis of 23 controlled trials into heart disease determined that psychosocial interventions (such as meditation, breathing exercises, and physical relaxation techniques) improved the outcomes when they were added to cardiac rehabilitation programmes for patients with CHD.” – British Heart Foundation

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Bong Joon Kim, In Suk Cho, Kyoung Im Cho. Impact of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Therapy on Myocardial Function and Endothelial Dysfunction in Female Patients with Microvascular Angina. J Cardiovasc Ultrasound. 2017 Dec; 25(4): 118–123. Published online 2017 Dec 29. doi: 10.4250/jcu.2017.25.4.118

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a structured group program that employs mindfulness meditation to alleviate suffering associated with physical, psychosomatic, and psychiatric disorders. In this study, we investigate the impact of MBSR on left ventricular (LV) and endothelial function in female patients with microvascular angina.

Methods

A total of 34 female patients (mean age 52.2 ± 13.8 years) diagnosed with microvascular angina underwent a MBSR program with anti-anginal medication for 8 weeks. The global longitudinal strain (GLS) of the LV was used as a parameter to assess myocardial function and reactive brachial flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) was used to assess endothelial function. Symptoms were analyzed by the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised to determine emotional stress. Changes in GLS and FMD between baseline and post-MBSR were analyzed.

Results

After 8 weeks of programmed MBSR treatment, stress parameters were significantly decreased. In addition, GLS (−19.5 ± 2.1% vs. −16.6 ± 2.5%, p < 0.001) and reactive FMD significantly improved (8.9 ± 3.0% vs. 6.9 ± 2.6%, p = 0.005) after MBSR compared to baseline. The changes in GLS correlated to changes in FMD (r = 0.120, p = 0.340) and with the changes in most stress parameters.

Conclusion

MBSR has beneficial impacts on myocardial and endothelial function in female patients with microvascular angina.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5762694/

 

Reduce Responsiveness to Social Evaluative Threat with Mindfulness

Reduce Responsiveness to Social Evaluative Threat with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“You can’t judge yourself or worry about what the other person is thinking if you’re too busy experiencing the wonder of the here and now.” – Jonathan Hinek

 

Humans are social creatures. All that the species has accomplished resulted from its ability to work together and build upon the work of others. Social connections are crucial to our health and happiness. Hence, it is very important for the individual to have effective satisfying social relationships. Unfortunately, interacting with other people is extremely complex and many find it very difficult to effectively engage with others. It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. This is particularly true when asked to perform in a social context such as giving a speech. In fact, research has demonstrated that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death.

 

Mindfulness in general appears to improve social relationships. In today’s Research News article “Trait Mindfulness Modulates Neuroendocrine and Affective Responses to Social Evaluative Threat.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087919/ ), Brown and colleagues investigate the relationship of mindfulness with social anxiety. They recruited college students and randomly assigned them to either a social anxiety or control condition. The students performed a Trier Social Stress Test involving preparing and giving a 5-minute speech and doing simple math either in front of critical peer evaluators (social anxiety) or alone (control). Before and after the test the students provided saliva samples to assess cortisol levels, an indicator of stress. They were also measured for anxiety, negative emotions, fear of evaluation, and mindfulness.

 

They found that the social anxiety manipulation compared to the control condition produced a significant elevation of salivary cortisol and anxiety. But, mindfulness moderated the effects such that students high in mindfulness had significantly lower anxiety, negative emotions, and cortisol responses to the social anxiety test than students low in mindfulness. This was true even when the students’ levels of fear of evaluation were controlled for. On the other hand, there were no significant effects of mindfulness in the control condition. So, the mindfulness effects were only with social anxiety.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness buffers the response to social stress and is associated with lower levels of stress hormones and negative emotions when exposed to social evaluative stress. These results, however, are correlational. So, causation cannot be determined within this study. But other research has demonstrated that mindfulness produces lower levels of stress, negative emotions, and anxiety and better social performance. So, it is likely that the results from the present study are indicative of mindfulness lowering social anxiety.

 

So, reduce responsiveness to social evaluative threat with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness meditation starts with observing an experience without trying to change or control it. It’s a practice in accepting reality and minimizing your resistance to it. This means to stop judging social interactions with negative adjectives, such as, scary, intimidating, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and so on.” – Adam Rockman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Brown, K. W., Weinstein, N., & Creswell, J. D. (2012). Trait Mindfulness Modulates Neuroendocrine and Affective Responses to Social Evaluative Threat. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(12), 2037–2041. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.04.003

 

Abstract

Background

Individual differences in mindfulness have been associated with numerous self-report indicators of stress, but research has not examined how mindfulness may buffer neuroendocrine and psychological stress responses under controlled laboratory conditions. The present study investigated the role of trait mindfulness in buffering cortisol and affective responses to a social evaluative stress challenge versus a control task.

Methods

Participants completed measures of trait mindfulness, perceived stress, anxiety, and fear of negative evaluation before being randomized to complete the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; Kirschbaum et al., 1993) or a control task. At points throughout the session, participants provided five saliva samples to assess cortisol response patterns, and completed four self-report measures of anxiety and negative affect to assess psychological responses.

Results

In accord with hypotheses, higher trait mindfulness predicted lower cortisol responses to the TSST, relative to the control task, as well as lower anxiety and negative affect. These relations remained significant when controlling for the role of other variables that predicted cortisol and affective responses.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that trait mindfulness modulates cortisol and affective responses to an acute social stressor. Further research is needed to understand the neural pathways through which mindfulness impacts these responses.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5087919/

Improve Employee Mental Health with Internet-Based Mindfulness Training

Improve Employee Mental Health with Internet-Based Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness can only attain sustainable success in the business world if its benefits are optimized and its risks minimized. Participants in mindfulness practices in the workplace must engage voluntarily and proactively if their endeavors are to bear fruit.” – David Brendel

 

Work is very important for our health and well-being. We spend approximately 25% of our adult lives at work. How we spend that time is immensely important for our psychological and physical health. Indeed, the work environment has even become an important part of our social lives, with friendships and leisure time activities often attached to the work environment. But, more than half of employees in the U.S. and nearly 2/3 worldwide are unhappy at work. This is partially due to work-related stress which is epidemic in the western workplace. Almost two thirds of workers reporting high levels of stress at work. This stress can result in impaired physical and mental health and can result in burnout; producing fatigue, cynicism, and professional inefficacy.

 

To help overcome unhappiness, stress, and burnoutmindfulness practices have been implemented in the workplace. Indeed, mindfulness practices have been shown to markedly reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, it has become very trendy for business to incorporate meditation into the workday to help improve employee well-being, health, and productivity. Devoting time during the busy workday can be difficult. Mindfulness training over the internet is an alternative training for people who find face-to-face training difficult and inconvenient. Online mindfulness training has shown great promise with effectiveness equivalent to face-to-face training.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739441/ ), Stratton and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of employee health mental programs implemented over the internet (E-Health Programs) to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or stress. They identified 22 randomized controlled trials, with 11 employing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 6 employing stress reduction programs, and 6 employing mindfulness-based interventions.

 

They found that the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and the stress reduction programs were significantly effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress in the workers, but the effect sizes were small to moderate. On the other hand, the mindfulness-based interventions produced large significant reductions in depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The effect sizes for mindfulness-based interventions were significantly larger than those for CBT or stress reduction programs.

 

The results suggest that programs implemented over the internet and designed to improve mental health in workers are effective in improving depression, anxiety, and/or stress. The results further suggest that mindfulness-based programs are significantly more effective. Mindfulness training has been frequently demonstrated to reduce depression, anxiety, and/or stress in general or clinical populations. So, it’s ability to do so here is not surprising but suggests that it is also effective when delivered over the internet. This is important as internet delivery does not detract from workplace time, is convenient for the employees, and is relatively inexpensive for the employer to implement.

 

So, improve employee mental health with internet-based mindfulness training.

 

“injecting a corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.” – Science Daily

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Elizabeth Stratton, Amit Lampit, Isabella Choi, Rafael A. Calvo, Samuel B. Harvey, Nicholas Glozier. Effectiveness of eHealth interventions for reducing mental health conditions in employees: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017; 12(12): e0189904. Published online 2017 Dec 21. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0189904

 

Abstract

Background

Many organisations promote eHealth applications as a feasible, low-cost method of addressing mental ill-health and stress amongst their employees. However, there are good reasons why the efficacy identified in clinical or other samples may not generalize to employees, and many Apps are being developed specifically for this group. The aim of this paper is to conduct the first comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating the evidence for the effectiveness and examine the relative efficacy of different types of eHealth interventions for employees.

Methods

Systematic searches were conducted for relevant articles published from 1975 until November 17, 2016, of trials of eHealth mental health interventions (App or web-based) focused on the mental health of employees. The quality and bias of all identified studies was assessed. We extracted means and standard deviations from published reports, comparing the difference in effect sizes (Hedge’s g) in standardized mental health outcomes. We meta-analysed these using a random effects model, stratified by length of follow up, intervention type, and whether the intervention was universal (unselected) or targeted to selected groups e.g. “stressed”.

Results

23 controlled trials of eHealth interventions were identified which overall suggested a small positive effect at both post intervention (g = 0.24, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.35) and follow up (g = 0.23, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.42). There were differential short term effects seen between the intervention types whereby Mindfulness based interventions (g = 0.60, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.85, n = 6) showed larger effects than the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) based (g = 0.15, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.29, n = 11) and Stress Management based (g = 0.17, 95%CI -0.01 to 0.34, n = 6) interventions. The Stress Management interventions however differed by whether delivered to universal or targeted groups with a moderately large effect size at both post-intervention (g = 0.64, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.85) and follow-up (g = 0.69, 95% CI 0.06 to 1.33) in targeted groups, but no effect in unselected groups.

Interpretation

There is reasonable evidence that eHealth interventions delivered to employees may reduce mental health and stress symptoms post intervention and still have a benefit, although reduced at follow-up. Despite the enthusiasm in the corporate world for such approaches, employers and other organisations should be aware not all such interventions are equal, many lack evidence, and achieving the best outcomes depends upon providing the right type of intervention to the correct population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739441/