STRESS!!! (and mindfulness)

PHS 795 student Lisa Charron brings attention to a study in the Chicago Public Schools using mindfulness interventions to improve educational outcomes (and eventually, health).

Lisa writes:

There is convincing evidence that chronic stress at least partly explains the connection between socio-economic status and health (both mental health and physical health). I’ve long been interested in mindfulness and have experienced both personally and second-hand the transformations in self regulation, emotional awareness, and coping that mindfulness practice can elicit. Studies on mindfulness have proliferated over the last few years, but none quite so large as the one described in this article. With so much research interest in both mindfulness and the poverty-stress-health connection, it seems an obvious extension to test whether or not mindfulness practice can successfully protect children from the deleterious effects of poverty-induced stress. I’ve read about studies that test the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions on youth and on underprivileged youth, but I’ve never read a study that compared the effect sizes for people of different socio-economic statuses. If I could encourage the researchers in this new study to look at one thing, it would be that. I also just read that SAMHSA awarded $5 million to Baltimore City for a combination of mindfulness/yoga, community building, and youth development programs. Seems like the Baltimore Health Department (and SAMHSA) have been reading the research connecting stress and social capital to health disparities, and are acting on it.




3 thoughts on “STRESS!!! (and mindfulness)

  1. Lisa- Thanks for sharing!

    This article is a great supplement to Dr. Creswell’s lecture on the biopsychosocial determinants on health. It is great to hear about these studies that are addressing social-emotional skills at such a young age, as we learned how important of a skill coping with stress can be in terms child health outcomes later in life. If mindfulness practice is shown to successfully protect children from the harmful effects of poverty-induced stress, this could be the simplest and cheapest method yet for improving the health and well-being of children of low socio-economic status poplation-wide. Until recently, the benefits of mindfulness have really only been explained for adults. Based off Dr. Creswell’s lecture, reducing poverty-induced stress among children may mitigate the delayed brain development seem among these children, and therefore the benefits of mindfulness for children may be far more reaching than for adults whose brains are already developed (for the most part). The Hair et al. study Dr. Creswell discussed showed different regional gray matter volumes for children of different socio-economic statuses. Given this, I would also be interested in seeing the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for children of different socio-economic statuses.

    I am curious what other outcomes this study can look at considering childhood stress can be linked to several other negative/troublesome behaviors. I look forward to hearing about Moreno’s official findings in a few years. I sure expect to see positive results in the intervention arm!


  2. Is this ( the same Baltimore initiative you were referring to or is it part of that initiative? I remembered reading this article some time last week, but couldn’t find it for a while. I’m not sure if this particular Baltimore school in the article is part of a formal study/the formal initiative, but it seems that it has, at least anecdotally, had positive effects (no suspensions in 2 years). Although causality is hard to prove, it definitely looks like there is a lot of potential in this area for social good and developing positive life-long habits.


  3. I was so excited to see this listed as a post for the blog! Mindfulness practice is a topic that I actually learned about formally in a First Year Interest group of courses when I arrived at UW-Madison. I took the class in tandem with a psychology course and a philosophy course, and I have been meditating (on and off…) since then.

    This study is incredibly interesting, and I loved that their emphasis was on the link between SES, poverty, and stress in children with the hope to buffer the damaging effects of poverty among young people. There is already a significant amount of literature about the efficacy of mindfulness, and I believe there are a handful of interventions in the Madison area that work to bring mindfulness practices and yoga to classrooms for teachers and students, but this study was unique in really targeting that link between SES, stress, and mindfulness practice. I found it neat to read this after the semester of lectures that highlighted the social determinants of health, stress and lallocastic load, and the life course theory of health. This complex web of processes that are interacting with and influencing our health make reading studies and examining interventions really interesting. This intervention has the ability to impact most of these areas in children, though the actual root of why behavior changes in schools occur is hard to prove. While casualty is hard to get at, this study points toward programs and interventions that can improve the social wellbeing of schools and help students develop positive stress reduction habits.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s