An evaluation of progressive muscle relaxation on stress related symptoms in a geriatric population

Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1981;14(4):255-69. doi: 10.2190/5c1r-9d61-yg2n-a7lv.


Ten highly anxious women, between the ages of sixty-nine and eighty-four, participated in a five month study designed to test the hypothesis that progressive muscle relaxation would reduce psychosocial stress in a group of high risk senior citizens. The women, who had lost their husbands within the last five years, responded to an offer extended to nervous senior citizens to participate in a relaxation study. Five women were assigned to the treatment group and five to a control group. The treatment group received two weeks of baseline evaluation, ten weeks of one hour in vivo relaxation training, and ten weeks of home practice using taped instructions. The control group had an identical schedule except instead of progressive relaxation training they received a pseudorelaxation procedure and had no home practice. All participants were evaluated prior to training, at the end of training, and ten weeks after training. Participants were also measured on the following factors: 1) state and trait anxiety, 2) self-report muscle tension, 3) hours to fall asleep, 4) number of nocturnal awakenings, and 5) headaches. Results indicate significant differences on all five measures between the experimental and control group. With the exception of trait anxiety, the experimental group manifested significant improvements on the remaining five measures from baseline to end of training. For state anxiety, a significant improvement continued during the ten weeks of home practice following the end of training.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Relaxation*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*