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Open Access Research article

A relaxation technique enhances psychological well-being and immune parameters in elderly people from a nursing home: A randomized controlled study

Abilio Reig-Ferrer1*, Rosario Ferrer-Cascales1, Ana Santos-Ruiz1, Adolfo Campos-Ferrer2, Alvaro Prieto-Seva3, Irene Velasco-Ruiz4, Maria Dolores Fernandez-Pascual1 and Natalia Albaladejo-Blazquez1

  • * Corresponding author: Abilio Reig-Ferrer areig@ua.es

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Psychology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

2 Immunohematology Service, Transfusion Centre of Alicante, Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Miguel Hernandez, Alicante, Spain

3 Consellería de Bienestar Social. Generalitat Valenciana, Alicante, Spain

4 University Hospital of San Juan, Obstetrics and Gynecology Service, Department of Biotechnology, University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:311  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-311

Published: 23 August 2014

Abstract

Background

The aging process involves a decline in immune functioning that renders elderly people more vulnerable to disease. In residential programs for the aged, it is vital to diminish their risk of disease, promote their independence, and augment their psychological well-being and quality of life.

Methods

We performed a randomized controlled study, evaluating the ability of a relaxation technique based on Benson’s relaxation response to enhance psychological well-being and modulate the immune parameters of elderly people living in a geriatric residence when compared to a waitlist control group. The study included a 2-week intervention period and a 3-month follow-up period. The main outcome variables were psychological well-being and quality of life, biomedical variables, immune changes from the pre-treatment to post-treatment and follow-up periods.

Results

Our findings reveal significant differences between the experimental and control groups in CD19, CD71, CD97, CD134, and CD137 lymphocyte subpopulations at the end of treatment. Furthermore, there was a decrease in negative affect, psychological discomfort, and symptom perception in the treatment group, which increased participants’ quality of life scores at the three-month follow-up.

Conclusions

This study represents a first approach to the application of a passive relaxation technique in residential programs for the elderly. The method appears to be effective in enhancing psychological well-being and modulating immune activity in a group of elderly people. This relaxation technique could be considered an option for achieving health benefits with a low cost for residential programs, but further studies using this technique in larger samples of older people are needed to confirm the trends observed in the present study.

Trial registration

International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register ISRCTN85410212

Keywords:
Elderly; Immune system; Meditation; Nursing homes; Quality of life; Relaxation response; Tranquilization