Objectives: The objectives of the study were (1) to evaluate self-reported stress levels and daily spiritual experiences in academic health care employees before, immediately after, and 1 year after enrolling in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course; and (2) to evaluate the correlation between a potential measure of pulse rate variability and self-reported stress levels.
Subjects: Fifty-nine (59) participants in the MBSR course offered to employees at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB) comprised the intervention group, and 94 health care providers in the neonatal nurseries comprised the control group.
Intervention: MBSR is an 8-week course that introduces mindfulness meditation practices. No intervention was offered to the control group. All participants were employees (or relatives of employees) at UTMB.
Design: All MBSR participants completed Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale, the SCL-90, the SF-36 Measure of Health and Well-Being, the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale, and a 5-minute measure of pulse rate coherence. This testing was done before and after the MBSR course and 1 year later. Ninety-four (94) neonatal health care providers completed the same series of questionnaires and pulse rate variability (PRV) measures, with 49 of the 94 completing the questionnaires 2 months and 1 year later.
Results: MBSR participants improved on all measures except the physical component score of the SF-36 upon completion of the MBSR course, and these results were maintained at the 1-year follow-up. The control group did not significantly change on any of the measures. PRV as measured by the Heart Math system did not correlate with any of the self-report questionnaires.
Conclusions: MBSR effectively reduces self-report measures of stress and increases daily spiritual experiences in employees in an academic health care setting, and these effects are stable for at least 1 year. Using a simple measure of PRV was not a clinically reliable biologic measure of stress.