Effect of a Qigong Intervention on Telomerase Activity and Mental Health in Chinese Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jan 4;2(1):e186967. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6967.


Importance: Qigong is a mind-body exercise that may be an effective self-care intervention for improving the well-being of women survivors of intimate partner violence.

Objective: To test whether a qigong intervention would increase telomerase activity and improve mental health in Chinese women who survived intimate partner violence.

Design, setting, and participants: A single-blind randomized clinical trial among Chinese women (N = 271) who survived intimate partner violence in the past 2 years recruited from a community center in Hong Kong, China. The trial was conducted from March 12, 2014, to May 26, 2016. Data analysis was by intention to treat and performed from June 7 to August 24, 2018.

Interventions: Randomization (1:1) to a 22-week qigong intervention (n = 136) that included 22 weeks of Baduanjin qigong group training (1-6 weeks: 2-hour sessions biweekly; 7-22 weeks: 1-hour follow-up sessions weekly) and self-practice (30 minutes per day for 22 weeks) or to a wait-list control group (n = 135) that received optional monthly health education sessions unrelated to qigong after 6 weeks (posttraining period) and qigong training after 22 weeks (postintervention period).

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was telomerase activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The secondary outcomes included levels of proinflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor and interleukin 6) in peripheral blood plasma, depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory II score; score range, 0-63; higher scores represent more severe depressive symptoms), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale; score range, 0-40; higher scores represent higher stress), and perceived coping (Perceived Coping Scale; score range, 0-13; higher scores represent use of more coping strategies).

Results: From 1611 Chinese women screened (mean [SD] age, 42.0 [8.8] years), 247 of 271 randomized participants completed the study (intervention group, 120; wait-list control group, 127). Telomerase activity of the intervention group participants after 22 weeks was not significantly different from that of the wait-list control group participants (5.18 U [95% CI, 5.05-5.31 U] in the intervention group vs 5.14 U [95% CI, 5.01-5.27 U] in the wait-list control group; P = .66). The mean change in telomerase activity from baseline was marginally significant in the intervention group (effect size [d], 0.13; 95% CI, 0.001-0.27) but not in the wait-list control group (d, -0.03; 95% CI, -0.16 to 0.10). Perceived stress and depressive symptoms were significantly lower in the intervention group than in the wait-list control group after 6 weeks (between-group differences: perceived stress: d, -1.81; 95% CI, -3.27 to -0.34; depressive symptoms: d, -3.57; 95% CI, -6.25 to -0.90), but not after 22 weeks (between-group differences: perceived stress: d, -1.03; 95% CI, -2.50 to 0.43; depressive symptoms: d, -1.78; 95% CI, -4.26 to 0.70).

Conclusions and relevance: The findings of this study do not support a significant benefit of Baduanjin qigong on telomerase activity in women who have survived intimate partner violence. However, outcomes related to mental health seem to be improved, which should be confirmed by additional studies.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02060123.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Depression / therapy
  • Female
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Qigong*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Telomerase / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Telomerase

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02060123