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Saban KL, Collins EG, Mathews HL, Bryant FB, Tell D, Gonzalez B, Bhoopalam S, Chroniak CP, Janusek LW. Impact of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on Psychological Well-Being, Cortisol, and Inflammation in Women Veterans. Journal of general internal medicine. 2022 Sep 1; 37(Suppl 3):751-761.
BACKGROUND: Women veterans experience higher levels of stress-related symptoms than their civilian counterparts. Psychological stress is associated with greater inflammation and may increase risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to improve psychological well-being in other populations but no randomized controlled trials (RCT) have been conducted examining the impact of MBSR on well-being and inflammation in women veterans at risk for CVD. OBJECTIVE: Determine the effectiveness of MBSR in improving psychological well-being, cortisol, and inflammation associated with CVD in women veterans. DESIGN: The design is a RCT comparing MBSR to an active control condition (ACC) consisting of a health education program. PARTICIPANTS: Women veterans (N = 164) with risk factors for CVD from the Chicagoland area participated in the study. INTERVENTION: An 8-week MBSR program with weekly 2.5-h classes was compared to an ACC consisting of an 8-week health promotion education program with weekly 2.5-h classes. MAIN MEASURES: The outcomes were psychological well-being [perceived stress, depressive symptoms, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)] symptoms and stress-related markers, including diurnal salivary cortisol and cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interferon gamma (IFN- ). Data were collected at baseline, 4 weeks (mid-point of intervention), 8 weeks (completion of intervention), and 6 months after completion of MBSR or ACC. KEY RESULTS: Compared to the ACC, women who participated in MBSR reported less perceived stress, loneliness, and symptoms of PTSD. Although there were no significant differences between groups or changes over time in IL-6 or IFN- , participants in the MBSR program demonstrated a more rapid decline in diurnal salivary cortisol as compared to those in the ACC. CONCLUSIONS: MBSR was found to improve psychological well-being and decrease diurnal salivary cortisol in women veterans at risk for CVD. Health care providers may consider MBSR for women veterans as a means by which to improve their psychological well-being.