Improving access, enhancing quality and lowering the costs of health care services is a central tenet to health care reform.
Policymakers and providers believe health information technology and web-based platforms can accomplish these goals. However, definitive proof of concept has been a work in progress.
Now, a new study shows that the use of an Internet-based stress management programs (ISM) can effectively reduce stress for a sustainable period.
As reported in the in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Cleveland Clinic researchers discovered online stress management programs increase accessibility for individuals affected by chronic stress at a lesser cost than traditional methods.
Furthermore, the stress reduction achieved by an ISM is comparable to face-to-face stress management.
Researchers evaluated three-hundred study participants after completion of an eight-week ISM program.
Participants received online relaxation practice materials, strategies to help cope with life’s stressors, stress assessments at the beginning and end of the program, and daily topics to inspire participants to continue the meditation and relaxation techniques.
Upon comparison of program participants to individuals placed in a control group, ISM recipients showed a significant decrease in perceived stress from high levels to average, as well as greatly improved emotional wellbeing.
Results confirmed a positive correlation between the number of meditations completed per week and perceived stress reduction.
“Our recent findings provide individuals and employers with a new option to consider for themselves or their employees’ stress management,” said Michael Roizen, M.D., Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic.
“Unmanaged stress causes some of the highest healthcare costs for employers and has a lasting impact on everyone; this study implies such health effect may be readily reduced.”
Using Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) to measure a person’s perception of stress, individual results were based on a 0 (best) to 40 scale.
Study participants’ stress levels prior to ISM averaged 23.05, much higher than the U.S. norm, 13.7 for females and 12.1 for males.
Active participants demonstrated a substantial stress score improvement of 4.04 after the program. Individuals who completed five meditations per week were likely to experience a 6.12 decrease in perceived stress scores vs. practicing once per week.
New research identifies chronic stress as a major public health issue and a factor associated with increased health risk and chronic disease.
Comparable to smoking, psychological distress is more significant in terms of health risks to blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.
A national survey from the American Psychological Association (Stress in America) showed that 75 percent of American adults continue to report high levels of stress despite an improving economy, with little accessibility to a feasible stress management program.
And, for most Americans, work is the most stressful life factor.
ISM focuses heavily on achieving a state of mindfulness through relaxation and meditation, and guided imagery wheras face-to-face stress management programs often include massage therapy, exercise, diet modification, acupuncture, and meditation.
Researchers used standard outcome measures including the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, and the Adult Self-Transcendence Inventory, to compare the two approaches throughout the 12-week study.
The General Electric Corporation (GE) offered the ISM program to employees in three of its sites as part of the trial.
“Understanding consumer behavior related to health and healthcare is critical to advancing care delivery,” said Mitch Higashi, chief economist for GE Healthcare.
“In this case, demonstrating how workplace stress management programs could be delivered effectively in online formats provides important insights for future innovation.”
Source: Cleveland Clinic