An increased psychosocial stress level is a continuously growing public health problem. While previous studies investigated the stress-related effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), it is still largely unknown, whether chronic stress decreases after an 8-week training of a body scan meditation. This study aimed at closing this gap by examining the effects of a body scan on chronic stress markers.
In this study, 47 healthy students were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n = 24) and a control group (n = 23). Participants in the intervention group used a 20-min long audio recording of a guided body scan. The control group listened to an audio book for the same amount of time. On the biological level, stress was assessed by selected stress hormones (cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and its ratio) from hair samples. Psychological stress load was measured by the Screening of the Trier Inventory of Chronic Stress.
The body scan group showed a decreased level of cortisol, and cortisol/DHEA ratio, as well as an increased level of DHEA compared with the audio book group. Regarding psychological stress, a decreased value was observed in both groups. Additional correlation analyses demonstrate no relationship between biological and psychological chronic stress markers.
Overall, data suggest positive effects of an 8-week body scan, especially for biological stress markers. Investigating the effects of this intervention in populations with a high risk for increased levels of stress (e.g., unemployment) would be particularly interesting.
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The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Clemens Kirschbaum and all the staff members of Dresden LabService GmbH who analyzed the hair samples. We also want to thank all the students and student assistants who were involved in assessing and post-processing of data.
The study was partly funded by Ulm University grants for female scientists to DF.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee at Indiana University Purdue University in Indianapolis and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Schultchen, D., Messner, M., Karabatsiakis, A. et al. Effects of an 8-Week Body Scan Intervention on Individually Perceived Psychological Stress and Related Steroid Hormones in Hair. Mindfulness 10, 2532–2543 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-019-01222-7
- Body scan