US hospital receives grant to study benefits of stress management for chronic diseases

13th April 2016

Original story:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine received a $464,465 grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health to enable researchers to conduct a comprehensive, four-year study on the benefits of stress management interventions for chronic pain and illness.

"The experience of chronic pain and illness is stressful and affects the course of the disease," said co-principal investigator Michael P. Carey, Ph.D., the centers' director. "Feeling both sick and stressed, especially when it is chronic, can lead to anxiety and depression. These emotional states disturb neuroendocrine and immune function."

He added, "Stress also undermines coping and other self-regulatory skills, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors and can undermine adherence to medical recommendations. The stress-illness pairing can, for some people, be a 'perfect storm' that impact their health and quality of life."

To alleviate the harmful effects of stress, behavioral interventions including such techniques as meditation, yoga and mindfulness have been developed for people with chronic pain and illness.

Co-principal investigator Lori Scott-Sheldon, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at The Miriam Hospital's Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine, said, "The literature on complementary and behavioral medicine is now large enough to permit an integrated investigation using meta-analysis - a statistical technique for combining the findings from independent studies - to gauge the efficacy of stress management interventions to improve disease-related biomarkers, treatment adherence, health behaviors and disease progression as well as psychological outcomes."

The study will include research conducted with people living with chronic pain and/or with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or HIV.

According to the researchers, more than 117 million Americans live with at least one chronic condition; 26 percent have two or more conditions; and 11 percent suffer daily persistent pain. Medical advancements have reduced the impact of chronic pain and illness, but caring for people with chronic pain or illnesses remains costly, accounting for the majority of health care spending. In addition, medical treatments often do not address psychosocial factors that undermine health.

"We will investigate whether stress management interventions can allay distress, improve health behaviors and delay disease progression, potentially reducing medical costs among people living with chronic diseases," said Carey.

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