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Emotional Self-Regulation Program Enhances Psychological Health and Quality of Life in Patients with Diabetes

Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Mike Atkinson, and Lee Lipsenthal, M.D.

HeartMath Research Center, Institute of HeartMath, Publication No. 00-006. Boulder Creek, CA, 2000.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

Summary

Aims: This pilot study was designed to assess changes in psychological status, quality of life and hematologic measures predictive of long-term health and well-being in patients with diabetes following a stress reduction and emotional self-regulation program.

Methods: Twenty-two patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes mellitus participated in a 2-day HeartMath workshop, a research-based program developed to reduce stress and negative affect, increase positive affect and reduce inappropriate autonomic nervous system activation. Self-report measures of stress, psychological status and quality of life were administered before and six months following the intervention. Hemoglobin A1c, cholesterol and triglycerides, and blood pressure were also assessed.

Results: Participants experienced significant reductions in psychological symptomatology and negative emotions, including anxiety, depression, anger and distress, following the intervention. Significant increases in peacefulness, social support and vitality were also measured, as well as reductions in somatization, sleeplessness and fatigue. Participants showed reduced sensitivity to daily life stressors after the intervention, and quality of life significantly improved. Regression analysis revealed a significant relationship between self-reported practice of the techniques learned in the program and the change in HbA1c levels in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Increased practice was associated with reductions in HbA1c.

Conclusions: Results suggest that the HeartMath emotional self-regulation intervention reduces stress, improves psychological health, enhances quality of life and may improve glycemic control in individuals with diabetes. Replication of this study with a non-treatment control group is necessary to confirm these findings.

McCraty R, Atkinson M, Conforti K. Heart rate variability, hemoglobin A1c, and psychological health in Type 1 and 2 diabetes following an emotional self-management program. Proceedings of the Society of Behavioral Medicine 20th Annual Scientific Sessions, San Diego, California, 1999 [abst].