Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
The aging process involves a decline in immune function that renders elderly people more vulnerable to disease. In residential programs for the aged, it is vital to reduce the risk of disease, to maintain independence, and increase psychological well-being and quality of life. Our goal is to test the effects of a psychological program of geriatric intervention based on the application of a relaxation technique, namely Bensons relaxation technique, on psychological well-being and immune function in elderly people residing in a nursing home.
Who can participate?
Residents of a nursing home (men and women), over 65 years old, without cognitive impairment; not are taking drugs with significant effects on endocrine or immune function; do not have health problems directly related to immune function; and not have suffered an extremely negative life event within the year prior to study participation.
What does the study involve?
The study involved three stages of assessment and an intervention. It was conducted over two weeks. The participants were randomly allocated to a control group (standard care was given by the physician) and treatment group (relaxation technique). The initial assessment was carried out before the first session of relaxation technique training; the other assessments were repeated, at the end of treatment and three months later. Both groups were evaluated at the same time. Finally, clinical and psychological variables were compared in both groups. The control group received the relaxation technique after last assessment (after follow-up).
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
It has shown an immediate benefit for those patients who were part of the treatment group. The technique has proven effective in improving psychological well-being of people who practice it.
Participation in this study involved no risk.
Where is the study run from?
The study was carried out in the nursing home Residencia de Tercera Edad Alacant (Juan XXIII). This study was conducted by a multidisciplinary group of psychologists of the Department of Health Psychology of the University of Alicante, in collaboration with physicians of the University Hospital of San Juan of Alicante and Consellería de Bienestar Social (Generalitat Valenciana).
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
The study started in October of 2011, and finished in September of 2012.
Who is funding the study?
Department of Health Psychology, University of Alicante.
Who is the main contact?
Professor Dr. Abilio Reig-Ferrer
A relaxation technique enhances psychological well-being and cellular immune competence of elderly people in a nursing home: a randomized controlled study
The aim of this study was to test the effects of a psychological program of geriatric intervention based on the application of a passive relaxation technique known as Bensons relaxation technique, on psychological well-being and cellular immune competence in elderly people residing in a nursing home. We hypothesized that the Bensons technique would generate positive effects on clinical and psychological well-being.
Residencia de Tercera Edad Alacant (Juan XXIII) of the Consellería de Bienestar Social (Generalitat Valenciana), and Faculty of Health Sciences (University of Alicante). Approval date 05/09/2011
Randomized controlled study; Psychological intervention
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Quality of life
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet
Elderly, relaxation technique, immune competence, psychological well-being
1. Control group: standard care was given by the physician. This group was randomized to wait-list condition.
2. Intervention group: Psychological treatment was given by an expert psychologist. It consisted of an empirical training in the relaxation response technique designed by Benson which we named the tranquilization technique. This relaxation technique consists of engaging in repeated resting periods in which the mind is free from preoccupations and the body is liberated of all tension.
Both groups were assessed before the beginning of the treatment, at the end, and three months later.
Primary outcome measure
Psychological, clinical and immunological measures were collected over the pre-treatment, post-treatment and follow up after the intervention. The following variables were collected:
1. Psychological variables: life satisfaction degree evaluated through the Satisfaction with Life Scale; positive and negative affect assessed with Bradburns Affect Balance Scale; quality of life of the participants by means of Nottingham Health Profile; and a Symptom List related with the Bensons relaxation response.
2. Clinical variables: functional assessment by means of Katz Index of ADL, physical parameters (BMI, blood pressure and heart rate), hematological parameters (red and white blood cells counts, and blood differential, hemoglobin, hematocryte, mean corpuscular volume, platelets, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate) and blood biochemistry measures (Glucose, creatinine, urea, uric acid, total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerids, AST, ALT, GGT, total proteins, and serum albumin).
3. Immunological variables: we recorded the following molecules: CD4, CD8, CD19, CD56, CD71, CD97, CD134, and CD173. At the immune level, our results show significant group differences in various lymphocyte sub populations at the end of treatment.
Secondary outcome measures
At the psychological level, the relaxation technique produced positive effects in that there was a decline in negative affect, degree of psychological distress, and perception of symptomatology with respect to baseline levels at the beginning of the study. Furthermore, the treatment group showed gains in quality of life at the three-month follow-up.
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. Participants should not to be taking drugs with significant effects on endocrine or immune function (e.g., corticosteroids or antimetabolites)
2. Participants should not to have health problems directly related to immune function (i.e., endocrine diseases, cancer, arthritis, asthma, or infectious diseases)
3. Participants should not have endured an extremely negative life event within the year prior to study participation
Target number of participants
Sample size: 30
Participant exclusion criteria
Participants with indications of cognitive impairment
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
Carretera San Vicente del Raspeig
University of Alicante (Spain)
c/o Abilio Reig-Ferrer
Carretera San Vicente del Raspeig s/n
Department of Health Psychology, University of Alicante (Spain)
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Not provided at time of registration
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Not provided at time of registration
Basic results (scientific)
2014 results in: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25151398
Reig-Ferrer A, Ferrer-Cascales R, Santos-Ruiz A, Campos-Ferrer A, Prieto-Seva A, Velasco-Ruiz I, Fernandez-Pascual MD, Albaladejo-Blazquez N, A relaxation technique enhances psychological well-being and immune parameters in elderly people from a nursing home: a randomized controlled study., BMC Complement Altern Med, 2014, 14, 311, doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-311.