Spiritual retreat can lower depression, raise hope in heart patients

August 01, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Attending a non-denominational spiritual retreat can help patients with severe heart trouble feel less depressed and more hopeful about the future, a University of Michigan Health System study has found.

Heart patients who participated in a four-day retreat that included techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, drumming, journal writing and outdoor activities saw immediate improvement in tests measuring depression and hopefulness. Those improvements persisted at three- and six-month follow-up measurements.

The study was the first randomized clinical trial to demonstrate an intervention that raises hope in patients with acute coronary syndrome, a condition that includes chest pain and heart attack. Previous research has shown that hope and its opposite, hopelessness, have an impact on how patients face uncertain futures.

"The study shows that a spiritual retreat like the Medicine for the Earth program can jumpstart and help to maintain a return to psycho-spiritual well-being," says study lead author Sara Warber, M.D., associate professor of family medicine at the U-M Medical School and director of U-M's Integrative Medicine program. "These types of interventions may be of particular interest to patients who do not want to take antidepressants for the depression symptoms that often accompany coronary heart disease and heart attack."

The findings were published in the July issue of Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing.

The retreat group was compared to two other groups: one received standard cardiac care and the other participated in a lifestyle change retreat run by the U-M Cardiovascular Center that focused on nutrition, physical exercise and stress management.

The spiritual retreat portion of the study was conducted at the Windrise Retreat Center in Metamora, Michigan, about 50 miles north of Detroit. In the Medicine for the Earth program, participants are encouraged to see themselves as part of an interconnected web of life. The approach is founded on the work of co-author Sandra Ingerman, M.A., who wrote the book Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins, which emphasizes principles of love, harmony, beauty, unity and peace.

The study used a number of standard mental and physical benchmarks to assess the success of the program.

The spiritual retreat group went from a baseline score of 12 on the Beck Depression Inventory, indicating mild to moderate depression, to an improved score of 6 immediately afterward, a 50-percent reduction. Their scores remained that low half a year later. The lifestyle group saw their scores drop from 11 to 7 and remain there. The control group's score started at 8 and went down to 6.

Participants also showed marked improvement in their scores on a test measuring hope. Scores on the State Hope Scale can range from 6 to 48, with higher scores indicating greater hope. All three study groups started with average scores between 34 and 36. After the spiritual retreat, participants' average scores rose and stayed at 40 or above, while the other two groups' averages remained significantly lower, ranging from 35 to 38, three and six months later.

"Our work adds an important spiritual voice to the current discussion of the importance of psychological well-being for patients facing serious medical issues, such as acute coronary artery disease," Warber says.
-end-
Additional Authors: Jenna Wunder, M.P.H., Alyssa Northrop, M.P.H., Brenda Gillespie Ph.D., Katherine Smith M.P.H., Katherine S. Rhodes, Ph.D., Melvyn Rubenfire, M.D., all of U-M. Vera L. Moura, M.D., of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kate Durda, M.A., independent teacher of Medicine for the Earth.

Funding: U-M General Clinical Research Center grant and private donors.

Disclosures: Ingerman and Durda make some income teaching Medicine for the Earth trainings. Sandra Ingerman makes some royalties on her book, Medicine for the Earth. Both donated their time for this study.

Citation: "Healing the Heart: A Randomized Pilot Study of a Spiritual Retreat for Depression in Acute Coronary Syndrome Patients," Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, July 2011.

University of Michigan Health System

Related Medicine Articles from Brightsurf:

An ultrasonic projector for medicine
A chip-based technology that modulates intensive sound pressure profiles with high resolution opens up new possibilities for ultrasound therapy.

A new discovery in regenerative medicine
An international collaboration involving Monash University and Duke-NUS researchers have made an unexpected world-first stem cell discovery that may lead to new treatments for placenta complications during pregnancy.

How dinosaur research can help medicine
The intervertebral discs connect the vertebrae and give the spine its mobility.

Graduates of family medicine residencies are likely to enter and remain in family medicine
This study provides an overview of the characteristics of physicians who completed family medicine residency training from 1994 to 2017.

Nuclear medicine and COVID-19: New content from The Journal of Nuclear Medicine
In one of five new COVID-19-related articles and commentaries published in the June issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, Johnese Spisso discusses how the UCLA Hospital System has dealt with the pandemic.

Moving beyond 'defensive medicine'
Study shows removing liability concerns slightly increases C-section procedures during childbirth.

NUS Medicine researchers can reprogramme cells to original state for regenerative medicine
Scientists from NUS Medicine have found a way to induce totipotency in embryonic cells that have already matured into pluripotency.

Protein injections in medicine
One day, medical compounds could be introduced into cells with the help of bacterial toxins.

Study reveals complementary medicine use remains hidden to conventional medicine providers
Research reveals that 1 in 3 complementary medicine (CM) users do not disclose their CM use to their medical providers, posing significant direct and indirect risks of adverse effects and harm due to unsafe concurrent use of CM and conventional medicine use.

Study of traditional medicine finds high use in Sub-Saharan Africa despite modern medicine
Researchers who have undertaken the first systematic review of into the use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicines (TCAM) in Sub-Saharan Africa found its use is significant and not just because of a lack of resources or access to 'conventional medicine'.

Read More: Medicine News and Medicine Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.