Holistic And Integrated Approaches: Are They Effective?

People often accuse holistic and integrated approaches of not being backed by research. But this is far from true. Highly regarded academic institutions establish the mind-body-spirit connection beyond doubt, alongside the proven effectiveness of many holistic techniques.

The Ancient Future Of Modern Medicine

In relative terms i.e. research and statistics in mainstream medicine dwarfs holistic treatments. But in absolute terms there is plenty of good data from highly regarded academic institutions that prove holistic and integrated approaches are effective.

Many top-notch medical facilities who specialise in cancer, like Harvard, John Hopkins, MD Anderson, Mayo Clinic, Rochester Clinic, etc. understand this. Hence, they have created entire new departments to conduct research and provide treatments based on holistic and integrated approaches.

Consequently, the evidence is mounting. And so we are moving towards an era where holistic and integrated approaches will sit comfortably alongside mainstream medicine in dealing with cancer.

Holistic and integrated approaches: Research Summaries

From an extensive trawl of the literature and data available, here is a selection of the key research findings in one easily accessible place: the information is presented under 5 sections:

  • Cancer-related (6 studies)
  • Immunity-related (8 studies)
  • Stress-related (3 studies)
  • Prayer/meditation-related (6 studies)
  • Others (9 studies)

Click on the ‘+’ sign below, to expand the summaries … and on the ‘-‘ sign to collapse them

Cancer-relatedImmunity-RelatedStress-RelatedMeditation & Prayer-relatedOther
Lifestyle predicts cancer more than genetics

Findings

1. Environmental factors were the overwhelming contributors to the causation of cancer

2. Inherited (genetic) factors played only a minor role

Details

1. Research study among 44000 pairs of twins in Scandinavia

Source

1. Lichtenstein, P. et al. (2000). “Environmental and Heritable Factors in the Causation of Cancer: Analyses of Cohorts of Twins from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 343, pp. 78-85 

Pessimism predicts mortality in cancer patients

Findings

1. Striking association between pessimism and death.

2. Optimism however, was surprisingly unrelated to survival (i.e. one dimension is related to survival rates but not the other)

Details

1. 200 participants with metastasized or recurrent cancer receiving radiation treatment

2. Assessments of optimism and pessimism done at three intervals: When patients entered the study, 4 months later and 8 months later

Source

1. Schulz, R et al. (1996). “Pessimism, Age, and Cancer Mortality,” Psychology and Aging, Vol. 11, pp. 304-9

Healthy expression of emotions slows tumour growth

Findings

1. Disease-prone individuals often have difficulty expressing emotions (both negative and positive).

2. Melanoma patients who expressed their emotions had more cancer-killing immune cells and slower-growing tumours.

Details

1. Laboratory research and longitudinal studies over a 10-yr period on patients with melanoma.

Sources

1. L. Temoshok & B.H. Fox (1984). Coping styles and other psychosocial factors related to medical status and to prognosis in patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma.

2. B.H. Fox and B.H. Newberry (eds.), Impact of Psychoendrine Systems in Cancer and Immunity. C.J. Hogrefe, Toronto;

People with stronger mental attitude survive longer

Findings

1. Women with breast-cancer who displayed “fighting spirit” (defined as assertiveness, hardiness and the will to live) as opposed to stoic acceptance or hopelessness, were twice as likely to be alive fifteen years later.

Details

1. Longitudinal studies over a 15-yr period on UK women with breast-cancer.

Sources

1. S. Greer, T. Morris, and K.W. Pettingale (1979). Psychological response to breast cancer: Effect on outcome. The Lancet, 2, pp. 785-787.

2. 10-year follow-up was reported in S. Greer, K.W. Pettingale, T.Morris, and J. Haybittle (1985). Mental attitudes to cancer: An additional prognostic factor. The Lancet, 1, p.750.

3. 15-year follow-up was reported in S. Greer, T. Morris, K.W. Pettingale, and J. Haybittle (1990). The Lancet, 1, pp.49-50.

Mind-body (group) therapies improve survival rates

Findings

1. Women with breast-cancer who displayed “fighting spirit” (defined as assertiveness, hardiness and the will to live) as opposed to stoic acceptance or hopelessness, were twice as likely to be alive fifteen years later.

Details

1. Longitudinal studies over a 15-yr period on UK women with breast-cancer.

Sources

1. S. Greer, T. Morris, and K.W. Pettingale (1979). Psychological response to breast cancer: Effect on outcome. The Lancet, 2, pp. 785-787.

2. 10-year follow-up was reported in S. Greer, K.W. Pettingale, T.Morris, and J. Haybittle (1985). Mental attitudes to cancer: An additional prognostic factor. The Lancet, 1, p.750.

3. 15-year follow-up was reported in S. Greer, T. Morris, K.W. Pettingale, and J. Haybittle (1990). The Lancet, 1, pp.49-50.

Support groups improve survival rates

Findings

1. After 2-3 years, the breast-cancer groups started showing differences. Women who had participated in group therapy died less rapidly than those who got only regular medical treatment.

2. After 10 years, the death rate was twice as great in the group that only had medical treatment

Details

1. Study conducted by Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University

2. Longitudinal studies over a 10-yr period on women with advanced breast-cancer

3. One group was given the usual medical treatment only. The other group had the usual medical treatment but also met for group therapy once a week for a year. They talked about their feelings concerning the cancer and what it meant for their families. Over time, they became close as a group with a lot of love being generated in these meetings. They also learned a self-hypnosis technique for pain control

4. Researchers then studied the death rate of both groups over the next ten years.

Sources

1. “Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions and Health” by Daniel Goleman

Pessimism predicts mortality

Findings

1. Optimism was strongly related to higher levels of immune function, such as T-cells, B-cells, and NK-cells.

2. Pessimism was negatively correlated

Details

1. 50 UCLA Law –school students during their first few months of school (a time of high stress)

2. Assessment of optimism and blood samples for immunity measures obtained at two intervals: Before the semester began and mid-semester i.e. week 8/9

Source

1. Segerstrom, S.C. et al. (1998). “Optimism Is Associated with Mood, Coping and Immune Change in Response to Stress,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 74, pp. 1646-655

Explanatory style predicts immune status

Definition

1. Explanatory Style is defined as one’s routine way of explaining bad events (not the bad events by themselves). Usually we explain an event in our lives, especially a bad event, along three dimensions having to do with;

  • whether we take personal responsibility for it;
  • the degree of permanence we feel the event has; and,
  • the level of pervasiveness of its effects

Findings

1. A pessimistic explanatory style was correlated with poor cell-mediated immunity

Details

1. Elderly participants. Other details not known.

Sources

1. Kamen-Siegel L et al (1991) “Explanatory Style and Cell-Mediated Immunity in Elderly Men and Women” Health Psychology Vol 10 pp 229-35

Disclosure boosts immunity

Findings

1. A variety of studies show that shortly after episodes of emotional disclosure, participants show a variety of improvements in their immune systems, including higher levels of NK-cells and CD4-cells and an enhanced immune response.

2. Suppressing thoughts about traumas, on the other hand, caused a decrease in immune function

Source

1. Booth RJ et al (1997) “Changes In Circulating Lymphocyte Numbers Following Emotional Disclosure: Evidence of Buffering?” Stress Medicine Vol 13 pp 23-29

2. Christensen AJ et al (1996) “Effect of Verbal Self-Disclosure on Natural Killer Cell Activity: Moderating Influence of Cynical Hostility” Psychosomatic Medicine Vol 58 pp 150-55

3. Pennebaker JW, J Kiecolt-Glaser, R Glaser (1988) “Disclosure of Traumas and Immune Function: Health Implications for Psychotherapy” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology Vol 56 pp 239-45

4. Lutgendorf SK et al (1994) “Changes in Cognitive Coping Strategies Predict EBV-Antibody Titre Change Following a Stressor Disclosure Induction” Journal of Psychomatic Research Vol 38 pp 63-78

Marital conflict affects stress levels and immunity

Findings

1. The more such negative and hostile behaviors exhibited by the couples, the higher their stress hormone levels and the lower the immune system responses.

Details

1. Married couples are admitted to a hospital research unit for 24 hours, where they undergo psychological tests and receive questionnaire assessments of their marital satisfaction and mood.

2. In the laboratory portion of the study, biological measures are taken unobtrusively from the couples as they engage in 30 minutes of marital conflict. (Based on prior interviews and the questionnaire responses, the couples discuss and attempt to resolve two or three marital issues that were deemed the most conflict-producing)

3. Their interactions are videotaped and scored using a coding system called the Marital Interaction Coding System (MICS), to measure the extent of the hostile and negative behaviors exhibited.

Source

1. Kiecolt Glaser et al (1997) “Marital Conflict In Older Adults: Endocrinological and Immunological Correlates:” Psychosomatic Medicine Vol 59 pp 339-49

2. Malarkey et al (1994) “Hostile Behavior During Marital Conflict Alters Pituitary and Adrenal Hormones” Psychosomatic Medicine Vol 56 pp 41-51

Anxiety compromises immunity

Findings

1. True low-anxious individuals had the greatest number of circulating monocytes (cells that are critically involved in defending against infectious diseases and cancer)

2. True high-anxious individuals had the next highest number of monocytes

3. Both repressive copers and defensive high-anxious individuals had the lowest number of monocytes

Details

1. 312 Yale Behavioural Medicine Clinic (YBMC) patients over a 5-yr period.

Source

1. L. Jamner, G. E. Schwartz, and H. Leigh (1988). “The relationship between repressive and defensive coping styles and monocyte, eosinophile, and serum glucose levels: Support for the opioid peptide hypothesis of repression”. Psychosomatic Medicine, 50 pp. 567-575.

Trust boosts immunity

Findings

1. People with affiliative trust had higher T-helper/T-suppressor cell ratios.

2. People who demonstrated mistrust had significantly lower ratios.

3. Participants’ mood at the time of taking the test had nothing to do with their cell ratios. Their immune status had not been altered by a fleeting emotion, but it had been influenced by an enduring – affiliative trust.

Details

1. 48 adults were given picture-story tests and blood workups.

Source

1. J.R. McKay (1991). “Assessing aspects of object relations associated with immune function: Development of the Affiliative Trust-Mistrust coding system”. Psychological Assessment, 3(4), pp. 641-647.

External stimulus predicts immunity

Findings

1. People who watched the ‘Nazi’ film showed little or no increase of protective IgA antibodies

2. While those who watched ‘Mother Theresa’ showed a marked increase in IgA antibodies.

  • However their antibody levels began to drop after the hour.

3. The study was repeated, with the students watching Mother Theresa to spend the next hour “reliving in their imagination, experiences in their lives in which they loved someone or were loved by someone”.

  • These students sustained their high antibody levels beyond the full hour.

Details

1. College students at Boston University

2. One group of students were shown a documentary about Mother Theresa, which showed vivid images of her tender loving approach to the sick, starving and dying people of the slums of Calcutta.

3. Another group (control) was shown a film about Nazi triumphs during World War 2.

4. Saliva samples for IgA antibodies were taken immediately before, after and one hour after the films were screened.

Source

1. D.C. McClelland and C. Kirshnit (1988). The effect of motivational arousal through films on salivary immunoglobin A. Psychology and Health, 2, pp. 31-52;

2. D.C. McClelland (1986): Some reflections on the two psychologies of love. Journal of Personality, 54, pp. 334-353.

Combination of lifestyle factors reduces likelihood of genetic illnesses

Definitions

1. Lifestyle factors: Hardiness, regular exercise and social support

2. Hardiness: defined as commitment, control & challenge rolled into one.

  • Characteristic of people who endure high stress while maintaining peak levels of mind-body health.

3. Genetically-linked diseases include cancer, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Findings

1. For executives with:

  • None of three resources, likelihood of illness = 92%.
  • One of three resources, likelihood of illness = 72%.
  • Two of three resources, likelihood of illness = 58%.
  • All of these resources, likelihood of illness = 8%.

Details

1. Study conducted by University of New York in 1985

2. 259 Illinois Bell executives with family histories of genetically-linked diseases

Source

1. C. Kobasa, S.R. Maddi, M.C. Puccetti, and M.A. Zola (1985). “Effectiveness of hardiness, exercise, and social support as resources against illness.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 29, pp. 525-533.

Relationships predict stress hormone levels

Findings

1. Compared to men with lower emotional support, those with higher levels of emotional support had lower levels of stress hormones: cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine

Details

1. Relatively healthy older men and women, number not stated

Source

1. Seeman et al (1994) “Social Ties and Support and Neuroendocrine Function: The MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging” Annals of Behavioral Medicine Vol 16 pp 95-106

Confession relieves stress

Findings

1. Students who wrote about facts and feelings involved in past traumas experienced significant health benefits for the 6 months following the weeklong writing exercise.

2. Students who only wrote about their feelings reported fewer symptoms of illness but the overall health benefits to the facts-and-feelings group were far greater.

3. The control group only got sicker. They reported more illnesses and logged many more visits to the health centre. Winter months took their toll on everyone, except those who wrote about facts and feelings.

Details

1. 46 male and female students attending Southern Methodist University.

2. Students were split into 4 groups.

  • Group 1 was asked to write continuously about the most upsetting or traumatic experience of their lives, whilst discussing their deepest thoughts and feelings while doing so.
  • The 2nd Group was asked to write about the most traumatic event they could remember, but only with facts and not feelings.
  • Group 3 was told to write about their worst trauma, but only the feelings it aroused, no facts.
  • The Control Group was asked to write about trivial events.

Source

1. W. Pennebaker and S. Beall (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95, pp. 274-281.

2. W. Pennebaker (1989). Confession, Inhibition, and Disease. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 22, pp. 212-244.

Frustrated power-seekers experience greater stress levels and compromised immunity

Findings

1. Frustrated power-seekers had higher levels of the stress hormone (adrenaline), lower levels of protective IgA antibodies, and more bouts of every type of illness, especially upper respiratory infections.

Details

1. Male college students (number not stated) from Boston University.

2. Picture-story tests are used to identify men with high stress and a strong need for power that was inhibited.

Source

1. D.C. McClelland, J.B. Jermott (1980). Power motivation, stress, and physical illness. Journal of Human Stress, 6(4), pp. 6-15.

Meditation reduces pain

Definitions

1. Sense-of-coherence

  • Strong sense of understanding what is happening to oneself, however horrible it is

2. Stress hardiness

  • Sense of control
  • Commitment to the vividness of daily life experience
  • Ability to deal with change as a challenge

Findings

1. 25% reduction in number of pain-symptoms over 8 weeks.

2. 32% reduction in psychological symptoms over 2 years

  • Anger, anxiety, depression
  • Somatization (imagining the body to be worse than it is)

3. 7% increase on sense-of-coherence during the course

4. 6% increase in stress hardiness among patients

Details

1. 1200 doctor-referred patients at University of Massachusets Medical Centre

2. Chronic problems, of avg 8-year duration, little previous success

3. 2-year longitudinal study

4. Participants underwent a 8-week ‘mindfulness-meditation course’ and maintained their practice on their own

Sources

1. “Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions and Health” by Daniel Goleman

Meditation reduces anxiety

Findings

1. Among patients with panic disorder,

  • Anxiety ratings started at a high level and then began to go down when the program started
  • At 6 weeks, ratings shot up when a whole day session was conducted and people were very frightened about being in a room for 8 hours without talking
  • Once the program started, anxiety ratings decreased again.

2. 3 months after the program ended, anxiety levels tended to stay down.

3. Results were achieved without any drugs.

Details

1. Patients suffering from acute panic disorder at University of Massachusetts Medical Centre (number not stated)

2. Participants underwent a 8-week ‘mindfulness-meditation course’ and maintained their practice on their own

3. To avoid bias, another group of specialists assessed and tested the patients

Sources

1. “Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions and Health” by Daniel Goleman

Prayer affects healing (1)

Findings

1. Among patients with advanced AIDS, no differences were seen in CD4 (a type of immune cells important in resisting the AIDS virus) between the distant-healing and control groups.

2. However group which underwent distant-healing had

  • Significantly fewer new AIDS-related illnesses
  • Less severe illnesses
  • Required fewer doctor visits
  • Fewer hospitalisations and fewer days of hospitalisation
  • Significantly improved mood compared with controls

3. Tests showed that the treatment effects were not affected by the subjects’ beliefs about which group they were in.

Details

1. Study conducted by Dr. Elisabeth Targ et al, California Pacific Medical Centre, San Francisco

2. 40 AIDS patients; mean age 43, various ethnicities and cultural groups, 37 men and 3 women.

3. 40 volunteers (healers), across 8 different healing traditions (incl. Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American & shamanic practices as well as graduates of bio-energetic and meditative healing schools) with avg 17-yrs experience throughout United States and Canada.

4. Double-blind study; all received standard medical care, 20 received distant healing in addition.

5. Each healer given a patient’s first name and photograph to help develop a personal connection with the subject. Healer asked to focus their mental energies on patient’s health and well-being for an hour a day, 6 days a week for 10 weeks. They prayed on a rotating schedule so that each patient was treated by a different healer each week.

6. Patients were assessed by blood tests and psychological testing at the beginning of the study and at the end of the 6-month follow-up period.

Sources

1. Larry Dossey, “Reinventing Medicine,”(1999): 45-47

Prayer affects healing (2)

Findings

1. Angioplasty (a coronary artery dilating procedure) outcomes for the ‘prayed-for’ group were 50-100% better than those of a control group not receiving prayer.

Details

1. Study conducted by Michael Krucoff & Suzanne Carter, Duke University Medical Center , Durham VA Hospital,

2. 30 recent angioplasty patients

3. Interventions done via MANTRA (Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Training) , a “cardio-spiritual” program combining high-tech cardiology and intercessory prayer, music, mental imagery and touch.

Sources

1. Larry Dossey, “Reinventing Medicine,” (1999): pg 48

Prayer affects healing (3)

Findings

1. Prayed-for patients differed from those receiving no prayer

  • 5 times less likely to require antibiotics (3 Vs. 16 patients).
  • 3 times less likely to develop pulmonary edema – lungs fill with fluid due to failure of the heart to pump properly – (6 Vs. 18 patients).
  • None required endo-tracheal intubation – artificial airway is inserted in the throat and attached to a mechanical ventilator – (0 Vs. 12 patients).
  • Fewer patients in the prayed-for group died (13 Vs. 17 patients, a difference that was not statistically significant).

Details

1. Study conducted by Randolph Byrd, San Francisco Hospital, 1988.

2. 393 patients (assigned randomly into 2 groups); 192 were prayed for, 201 were not

3. 10-month random, double-blind study.

4. Members of several Protestant and Roman Catholic groups from around the US were recruited to pray. They were given the first names of their patients as well as a brief description of their diagnosis and condition. They were asked to pray each day but were given no instruction about how to do so.

5. Each person prayed for many different patients.

6. Each patient had between five and seven people praying for him or her.

Sources

1. Larry Dossey, “Reinventing Medicine,” (1999): 54-55.

2. Byrd, “Intercessory Prayer,” 21-23.

Prayer affects self-esteem, anxiety and depression

Findings

1. Subjects being prayed for improved on all 11 measures of self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

2. On 10 out of the 11 criteria, those who did the praying were found to have improved more than the subjects for whom they were praying for.

Details

1. Study conducted by Fr. Sean O’ Laoire Ph.D, Catholic priest and transpersonal psychologist.

2. 406 individuals; 2 groups; one group received prayer and one did not.

3. Controlled double-blind study.

4. Assessed on 11 measures of self-esteem, anxiety and depression. (Measures not specified).

Sources

1. Larry Dossey, “Reinventing Medicine,” (1999): pg 49.

2. Sean O’Laoire, “An Experimental Study of the Effects of Distant, Intercessory Prayer on Self-Esteem, Anxiety, and Depression,” Alternative Therapies 3, no. 6 (1997): 39-53.

Rating one’s own health predicts longevity

Findings

1. In a variety of studies among people who are free of disease, symptoms and risk factors, those who nevertheless rate their own health as “fair or poor”, are likely to die at an earlier age than individuals who rate their health as “good or excellent”

Details

1. Participants are asked to rate their own health on a 5-point scale

2. Followed-up regularly, for a period up to 9 years

Sources

1. Kaplan, G.A. and T. Camacho (1983). “Perceived Health and Mortality: A Nine-Year Follow-up of the Human Population Laboratory Cohort,” Am J Epidemiol, pp. 895-904

2. Idler, E.L., and R.J. Angel (1990). “Self-Rated Health and Mortality in the NHANES-I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study” Am J Public Hlth, pp. 446-52

3. McGee, D.L. et al. (1999). “Self-Reported Health Status and Mortality in a Multiethinic US Cohort,” Am J Epidemiol, pp.41-6

4. Grant, M.D., Z.H. Piotrowski and R. Chappell (1995) “Self-Reported Health and Survival in the Longitudinal Study of Aging. 1984-1986,” J Clin Epidemiol, pp 375-87

5. Kaplan, G., V. Barell, and A. Lusky (1988). “Subjective State of Health and Survival in Elderly Adults,” J Gerontol, pp S114-S20

Explanatory style predicts longevity (1)

Findings

1. The tendency to catastrophise negative life events i.e. attribute them to pervasive causes was a powerful predictor of early death over a 30-yr period, especially among males.

2. Catastrophising life-events most strongly predicted deaths from accidents and violence

Details

1. More than 1500 healthy public-school children

2. CAVE technique was used to analyze explanatory styles in transcripts of responses to open ended questions provided by participants in the Terman Life-Cycle Study

3. Follow up assessments were done every 5 – 10 yrs, over a 30-yr period

Sources

1. Peterson et al (1998) “Catastrophizing and Untimely Death” Psychological Science Vol 9 p 127

Explanatory style predicts longevity (2)

Findings

1. A pessimistic explanatory style predicted death in a surprisingly systematic way

2. For every 10% increase in pessimism, there was a corresponding 19% increase in risk of death

Details

1. More than 800 patients at the Mayo Clinic

2. 30 year longitudinal study

3. Follow up assessments were done every 5 – 10 yrs, over a 30-yr period

Sources

1. Maruta et al (2000) “Optimists vs. Pessimists: Survival Rate Among Medical Patients Over a 30-Year Period” Mayo Clin Proc, pp 140-43

Social Support predicts mortality (1)

Findings

1. People with a smaller social network were twice as likely to die, than were people whose social network was larger.

2. Effect of social network persists after 9 years; Among surviving participants, social network still as strong a predictor of death

3. Size of social network was a more powerful predictor of death than more traditional risk factors.

Details

1. 4000 men and women in California, aged 30 to 69 years

2. Longitudinal study of 9 years

3. Used marital status, extent of contacts with friends and extended family, church membership and involvement in other types of formal and informal groups to measure one’s social network

Sources

1. Berkman and Syne (1979) “Social Networks, Host Resistance and Mortality: A nine Year Follow Up Study of Alameda County Residents” Am J Epidemiol Vol 109 pp 186-204

2. Seeman et al (1987) “Social Network Ties and Mortality Among the Elderly in the Alameda County Study” Americal Journal of Epidemiology Vol 126 p 714

Social support predicts mortality (2)

Findings

1. The greater one’s social support, the longer one lives

2. Women with weak social support had a mortality rate nearly twice that of women with strong social support.

3. Men with low social support died at 2 – 3 times the rate of men with strong social support.

Details

1. University of Michigan, 2000 healthy men and women, age: 30 to 69 years

2. Longitudinal study, 9-12 years

3. Social relationships measured, including marital status, church attendance and participation in volunteer activities.

Sources

1. S. House, C. Robbins, H.L. Metzner (1982) “The Association of Social Relationships and Activities with Mortality: Prospective Evidence from the Tecumseh Community Health Study“

2. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 116 pp. 123-40

Sense of power and control predicts longevity

Findings

1. Women who felt less power and control over their lives had a 30% greater likelihood of dying during a five year period, compared to those who felt a greater sense of power and control.

Details

1. Pregnant women across America

2. Participants were asked the degree to which statements such as this were true for them: “Many times I feel that I have little influence over the things that happen to me”. Scores on these types of questions were used to predict health and mortality over the next five years.

Sources

1. Ostrove et al (2001) ” Objective and Subjective Assessments of Socioeconomic Status and Their Relationship to Self-Rated Health in an Ethnically Diverse Sample of Pregnant Women” Health Psychology Vol 19 pp 613-18

Sense of control promotes well-being

Findings

1. Within weeks, the nursing home residents who were given responsibility for the plant showed a measurable improvement in mental and physical well-being.

2. After a year and a half, 30% of the control group had died whereas only 15% of the “responsibility-enhanced group” had died.

Details

1. Two groups of nursing home residents that were evenly matched in socio-economic levels and physical health

2. The first group was told that they were competent individuals, capable of caring for themselves and making decisions. They were asked to choose a plant from a large selection and told that they would be responsible for its care.

3. Members of the control group also were given a plant, but they were told that the staff would be responsible for its care.

Sources

1. J. Langer and J.Rodin (1976). The effects of choice and enhanced responsibility for the aged: A field experiment in an institutional setting, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, pp. 191-198.

Multiple roles (particularly volunteering) predicts longevity

Findings

1. Women who lived longer could be characterised by only two factors: They engaged in multiple roles and they were members of volunteer organisations.

2. Multiple roles not only predicted longevity, but better health as well. 52% of the women who did not belong to volunteer organisations in 1956 had experienced a major illness by 1986, compared to only 36% of those who had been active in their communities.

3. Women who were active in 1956 showed significantly higher self-esteem 30yrs later than those who were not active.

4. Duration and timing of volunteer work was not significant in predicting health or well-being.

Details

1. 427 married women with children living in upstate New York, age: 25 to 50 yrs old.

2. 30-yr study from 1956-1986

Sources

1. Moen, D. Dempster-McCain, and R.M. Williams (1989). Social Integration and longevity: An event history analysis of women’s roles and resilience. American Sociological Review, 54, pp. 635-647.

Closeness of relationship with parents predicts middle-age health

Findings

1. Participants who felt both parents were caring were healthier later in life, followed those who felt only one parent was caring, followed by those who had felt neither parent was caring.

2. 91% of the participants who had not earlier perceived themselves as having a warm relationship with their mother had been diagnosed with a medical illness in midlife, compared to only 45% of those who reported a warm relationship with their mother. Perceived warmth and closeness to the father was also predictive of participants’ health 35 years later.

3. 87% of participants who had felt neither parent was caring were sick at midlife compared to only 25% of those who felt both parents were caring.

Details

1. Study conducted among students at Harvard University (number not stated)

2. 35-yr longitudinal study from 1950’s-1980’s

3. Participants completed a series of physiological assessments and psychological tests, including questions about their feelings of warmth and closeness to their parents (both mother and father).

4. The researcher was able to locate nearly all the participants again in the 1980s, some 35 years after the original data collection. Again extensive medical and psychological assessments were administered, and participants’ medical records reviewed.

5. Researchers then analyzed the data to determine whether the students’ feelings of parental warmth and closeness in the 1950s had been predictive of their health as adults

Sources

1. Russek and Schwartz (1997b) “Perceptions of Parental Caring Predict Health Status in Midlife: A 35 Year Follow-up of the Harvard Mastery of Stress Study” Psychosomatic Medicine Vol 59 pp 144-49

Nothing can prepare you for the cancer journey. But advice from someone who have been there, done that can certainly make you better informed. You can watch the Cancer Awakens video series here and read the articles here.

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