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Effectiveness of providing university students with a mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress: one-year follow-up of a pragmatic randomised controlled trial

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  • Julieta Galante
  • Jan Stochl
  • Geraldine Dufour
  • Maris Vainre
  • Adam Peter Wagner
  • Peter Brian Jones

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Abstract

Background: There is concern that increasing demand for student mental health services reflects deteriorating student wellbeing. We designed a pragmatic, parallel, single-blinded randomised controlled trial hypothesising that providing mindfulness courses to university students would promote their resilience to stress up to a year later. Here we present one-year follow-up outcomes. Methods (trial registration: ACTRN12615001160527): University of Cambridge students without severe mental illness or crisis were randomised (1:1, remote software-generated random numbers), to join an 8-week mindfulness course adapted for university students (MSS), or to mental health support as usual (SAU). Results: We randomised 616 students; 53% completed the one-year follow-up questionnaire. Selfreported psychological distress and mental wellbeing improved in the MSS arm for up to one year compared to SAU (p<0.001). Effects were smaller than during the examination period. No significant differences between arms were detected in the use of University Counselling Service and other support resources, but there was a trend for MSS participants having milder needs. There were no differences in students’ workload management; MSS participants made more donations. Home practice had positive dose-response effects; few participants meditated. No adverse effects related to self-harm, suicidality, or harm to others were detected. Conclusion: Loss to follow-up is a limitation but evidence suggests beneficial effects on students’ average psychological distress that last for at least a year. Effects are on average larger at stressful times, consistent with the hypothesis that this type of mindfulness training increases resilience to stress.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Epidemiology & Community Health
Volume75
Early online date10 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021
Peer-reviewedYes

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