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Stress & Well-being

Library of Research Articles on Veterans and CIH Therapies

February 2024 Edition

Stress & Well-being

Bokhour BG, Haun JN, Hyde J, Charns M, Kligler B. Transforming the Veterans Affairs to a Whole Health System of Care: Time for Action and Research. Med Care. 2020;58(4):295-300. doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000001316

As part of the national movement towards value-based and accountable care, health care systems are working to incorporate patient-centered approaches to improve patients' wellness and increase engagement in self-care.1,2 In 2001, the Institute of Medicine identified patient-centered care as one of the 6 pillars of quality of care, and defined it as "providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions."3 Patient-centered care shifts away from a disease-focused care model, and changes the conversation from "What is the matter with you?" to "What matters to you?"

Bolton RE, Fix GM, VanDeusen Lukas C, Elwy AR, Bokhour BG. Biopsychosocial benefits of movement-based complementary and integrative health therapies for patients with chronic conditions. Chronic Illn. 2018 Jan 1:1742395318782377. doi: 10.1177/1742395318782377. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29914264.


Complementary and integrative health practices are growing in popularity, including use of movement-based therapies such as yoga, tai-chi, and qigong. Movement-based therapies are beneficial for a range of health conditions and are used more frequently by individuals with chronic illness. Yet little is known about how patients with chronic conditions characterize the health benefits of movement-based therapies.


We conducted focus groups with 31 patients enrolled in yoga and qigong programs for chronic conditions at two VA medical centers. Transcripts were analyzed using conventional content analysis with codes developed inductively from the data. Participants' descriptions of health benefits were then mapped to Engel's biopsychosocial model.


Participants described improvements in all biopsychosocial realms, including improved physical and mental health, reduced opiate and psychotropic use, enhanced emotional well-being, and better social relationships. Changes were attributed to physical improvements, development of coping skills, and increased self-awareness.


Patients with chronic illnesses in our sample reported multiple benefits from participation in movement-based therapies, including in physical, mental, and social health realms. Providers treating patients with complex comorbidities may consider referrals to movement-based therapy programs to address multiple concerns simultaneously, particularly among patients seeking alternatives to medication or adjunctive to an opiate reduction strategy.

Brown LM, Sawyer LM, Lensing SY, Taylor T, Bopp MM, Ferrier I, Sullivan DH. An outpatient Tai Chi program: Effects on veterans' functional outcomes. Nurs Forum. 2021 Apr;56(2):448-452. doi: 10.1111/nuf.12532. Epub 2020 Nov 26. PMID: 33241873.


To evaluate the effectiveness of an evidence-based 12-week Tai Chi course designed to improve balance and physical function in a population of older veterans.


Community dwelling veterans of all ages with gait and balance problems were invited to participate in the Tai Chi program. Participants completed the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, and the Falls Efficacy Scale-International (FES-I) at baseline and again at the end of the program. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize study participants' characteristics. The change from baseline to the end of the 12-week program was calculated for each of the three primary outcome variables (BBS, TUG, FES-I).


Twenty-two veterans, aged 58 years and above, with perceived gait and/or balance issues were enrolled in the program with completion by 11 veterans. Veterans who completed their final assessments showed the BBS, improved significantly (p = 0.004) from baseline to the 12-week assessment. The TUG scores improved by a median of 1.3 s (p = 0.022). There was not a significant change in the FES-I.


Preliminary findings provide evidence of the effectiveness of a 12-week Tai Chi program to improve functional outcomes for older veterans with mild to moderate gait and balance problems.

Combs MA, Critchfield EA, Soble JR. Relax while you rehabilitate: A pilot study integrating a novel, yoga-based mindfulness group intervention into a residential military brain injury rehabilitation program. Rehabil Psychol. 2018 May;63(2):182-193.


This preliminary, pilot study assessed the effectiveness of a group-based, mindfulness intervention in a residential, rehabilitation setting with specific focus on assessing participants' self-report of perceived benefit of the intervention on overall health, pain, sleep, mood/anxiety, attention, and self-awareness, as well as implementing modifications needed for successful intervention application among a diverse, clinical military population.


Participants were 19 veterans and active duty service members with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI; 63% severe) who completed a mindfulness-based group intervention during inpatient admission at a Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation Program (PTRP). Mindfulness and yoga skills were taught in a required, weekly group incorporated into participants' rehabilitation schedule. Opinions and attitudes about mindfulness, as well as pertinent self-report outcome measures, were obtained pre- and postgroup participation.


Results suggested that participation in the group was positively associated with individuals' self-reported belief about the benefit of mindfulness in the areas of overall health, physical health, mood, focus, and self-awareness. The more groups attended, the more positive the participants' beliefs about potential impact on overall health and mood became, even while controlling for length of rehabilitation stay. Additionally, several specific group modifications relevant to this population (e.g., physical/environmental modifications, repetition, ignoring/reorienting) were implemented to support successful participation.


These preliminary and exploratory findings suggest that it may be worthwhile for psychologists, clinicians, and other health care providers working with a mixed TBI population, and more specifically a military population with TBI, to consider introducing mindfulness skills as part of multidisciplinary rehabilitation.

Donovan ML, Forster JE, Betthauser LM, Stamper C, Penzenik M, Hernández TD, Bahraini N, Brenner LA. Association between perceived distress and salivary cortisol in veterans with mTBI. Compr Psychoneuroendocrinol. 2022 Feb 2;10:100123. doi: 10.1016/j.cpnec.2022.100123.

Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is one of the most common injuries experienced by Veterans and can frequently result in a variety of post-concussive symptoms. Post-concussive headaches (PCH), one of the most common symptoms, can persist for years after the injury occurred. The long-lasting impacts of PCH can be extremely distressing for Veterans, thus necessitating the need to find reliable biomarkers that directly relate to subjective feelings of distress. Yoga-based interventions have been shown to improve both subjective and objective markers of stress. Techniques used in yoga, such as the focus on releasing muscular tension, are also recommended as strategies for treating PCH. Thus, yoga-based interventions provide a unique context for the comparison of subjective and objective measures of distress in Veterans with PCH. In this secondary, exploratory analysis, we examined the relationship between perceived distress and cortisol in sixteen Veterans with mTBI and long-term PCH within the context of a yoga intervention feasibility study. The Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), a validated tool for measuring subjective distress, was administered to participants immediately before and after 75-min yoga classes, which occurred twice weekly over eight weeks. Participants also provided salivary cortisol (pre- and post-yoga) at in-person sessions (eight) to compare to changes in VAS scores. We found that VAS scores were significantly reduced within five of the eight assessed yoga classes, but there were no significant changes in cortisol levels. No significant correlations were found between VAS scores and salivary cortisol levels. When looking at how cortisol levels changed over time (i.e., over the series of eight yoga sessions), there was a significant downward trajectory in post-yoga cortisol, but not after taking pre-class cortisol into account (i.e., within yoga session cortisol change over time). Taken together, we found that subjective distress, but not cortisol was reduced by yoga classes. These data suggest that salivary cortisol did not match changes in perceived distress, thus emphasizing the ongoing challenges of relating subjective and objective measures.

Elwy AR, Taylor SL, Zhao S, McGowan M, Plumb DN, Westleigh W, Gaj L, Yan GW, Bokhour BG. Participating in Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches Is Associated With Veterans' Patient-reported Outcomes Over Time. Med Care. 2020 Sep;58 Suppl 2 9S:S125-S132. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001357.


Veterans Affairs is dedicated to providing a Whole Health approach to care, including offering complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches to Veterans.


The objective of this study was to examine the association of CIH participation with Veterans' patient-reported outcomes over time.


A survey of patient-reported outcomes at 5 timepoints: baseline, 2, 4, 6, and 12 months.

Subjects: Veterans participating in any type of CIH approach at 2 Veterans Affairs medical centers.

Measures: Mixed hierarchical models with repeated variables were used to test the hypothesis that participating in any CIH approach would be associated with Veterans' overall physical/mental health [Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System 28 (PROMIS 28)], pain intensity, perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale-4), and engagement in their care (Patient Activation Measure-13), controlling for age, male sex, site, participation in other CIH approaches, and surveys completed.


We received 401 surveys from 119 Veterans (72% male, age range: 29-85 y) across all timepoints. Yoga participation was related to decreases in perceived stress (P<0.001), while tai chi participation was associated with improvements in overall PROMIS 28 physical and mental health functioning (P<0.02). Specific types of CIH were associated with significant improvements in PROMIS 28 subscales: meditation participation with physical functioning at 2, 6, and 12 months; tai chi participation with anxiety at 2 and 6 months, and ability to participate in social role activities at 2 months. No CIH approach was associated with Veterans' pain or engagement in their care.


As specific CIH approaches are associated with improvements in patient-reported outcomes, clinicians, Veterans, and family members may use this information in discussions of nonpharmacological options to address health and well-being.

Gaddy MA. Implementation of an integrative medicine treatment program at a Veterans Health Administration residential mental health facility. Psychol Serv. 2018 Nov;15(4):503-509. doi: 10.1037/ser0000189.

A 4-week interdisciplinary integrative medicine program was recently added to the core treatment offerings for veterans participating in the Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Program at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The new integrative medicine program teaches veterans about using meditative practices, nutrition, creative expression, tai chi, hatha yoga, sensory and breathing techniques, and lifestyle changes to enhance well-being. The groups are run by professionals from a variety of disciplines including recreation therapy, art therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, and nutrition. For the first 42 veterans to complete the program, the Short Form 12-item Health Survey was administered before and after participation in the integrative medicine program to assess the potential effectiveness of the program in enhancing physical and psychological well-being. In addition, a brief semistructured interview was used to assess veteran opinions about the program. Results suggest that the program was well received and that both physical and mental health scores improved from before to after treatment in this sample of veterans with complex behavioral health concerns. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

Haun JN, Paykel J, Alman AC, Patel N, Melillo C. The Integrative Health and Wellness Program: Development and Use of a Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinic for Veterans.  Explore (NY). 2019 Aug 12. pii: S1550-8307(19)30444-6


Transforming Health and Resiliency through Integration of Values-based Experiences (THRIVE) is an evidence-based 14-week curriculum-based group medical appointment clinical program. THRIVE is based on principles of integrative medicine, positive psychology, and acceptance and commitment therapy. The goal of this paper is to review findings from a local THRIVE program implementation piloted in the Women's Health outpatient clinics on mental and physical health indicators.


Pilot data were obtained for 14 THRIVE cohorts of female veterans enrolled from outpatient clinics at the James A. Haley veterans' Hospital in Tampa, FL between 2016 and 2018 (N = 201). THRIVE assessments were conducted as part of the THRIVE program, at the first visit (baseline), mid-way, and at the end of the program. Data were collected using self-administered paper-pencil method on standardized scales for physical and mental health (Patient Health Questionnaire, Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire, Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II, Satisfaction With Life Scale, and the physical and mental function components of the Short Form Survey). Linear mixed effects models were used to examine change in physical and mental health scales over time while adjusting for age, race (white vs. other), and cohort. In addition, we examined whether the rate of change differed by age or race.


Improvement was seen for most scales across the 3 assessments (p < 0.05) with the exception of physical composite score of the Short Form Survey (p = 0.487). Participants reported that pain interfering with work significantly decreased from "quite a bit" at baseline to "moderately" by assessment 3 (p = 0.042). Older ages had lower baseline scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire and Acceptance and Action Questionnaire than younger ages, but younger ages had a greater rate of improvement over the intervention (p for interaction 0.016 and 0.056, respectively). Whites reported greater improvement in life satisfaction than non-whites (p for interaction 0.043). For physical composite score, whites had higher baseline score, but did not report significant improvement in physical function over the assessment period, while non-whites had lower baseline score, but did report significant improvement in physical function (p for interaction 0.059). Non-white veterans reported more pain interfering with work relative to white veterans (OR 5.9, 95% CI 1.79-19.43, p = 0.004).


We found significant improvement on self-reported mental health scales as well as improvement in how much pain interferes with work in a pilot sample of women veterans over the 14-week program.

Hull A, Brooks Holliday S, Eickhoff C, Sullivan P, Courtney R, Sossin K, Adams A, Reinhard M. Veteran participation in the integrative health and wellness program: Impact on self-reported mental and physical health outcomes. Psychol Serv. 2018 Apr 5. doi: 10.1037/ser0000192. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29620393.

Complementary and integrative health (CIH) services are being used more widely across the nation, including in both military and veteran hospital settings. Literature suggests that a variety of CIH services show promise in treating a wide range of physical and mental health disorders. Notably, the Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing CIH services within the context of a health care transformation, changing from disease based health care to a personalized, proactive, patient-centered approach where the veteran, not the disease, is at the center of care. This study examines self-reported physical and mental health outcomes associated with participation in the Integrative Health and Wellness Program, a comprehensive CIH program at the Washington DC VA Medical Center and one of the first wellbeing programs of its kind within the VA system. Using a prospective cohort design, veterans enrolled in the Integrative Health and Wellness Program filled out self-report measures of physical and mental health throughout program participation, including at enrollment, 12 weeks, and 6 months. Analyses revealed that veterans reported significant improvements in their most salient symptoms of concern (primarily pain or mental health symptoms), physical quality of life, wellbeing, and ability to participate in valued activities at follow-up assessments. These results illustrate the potential of CIH services, provided within a comprehensive clinic focused on wellbeing not disease, to improve self-reported health, wellbeing, and quality of life in a veteran population. Additionally, data support recent VA initiatives to increase the range of CIH services available and the continued growth of wellbeing programs within VA settings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Hull A, Holliday SB, Eickhoff C, Rose-Boyce M, Sullivan P, Reinhard M. The Integrative Health and Wellness Program: Development and Use of a Complementary and Alternative Medicine Clinic for Veterans. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 Nov-Dec;21(6):12-21. PubMed PMID: 26567446.


A movement exists within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) toward incorporating complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as an integrative complement to care for veterans. The Integrative Health and Wellness (IHW) Program is a comprehensive CAM clinic offering services such as integrative restoration (iRest) yoga nidra, individual acupuncture, group auricular acupuncture, chair yoga, qigong, and integrative health education.


The current study intended to detail the development of the CAM program, its use, and the characteristics of the program's participants.


Using a prospective cohort design, this pilot study tracked service use and aspects of physical and mental health for veterans enrolled in the program.

Participants: During the first year, the IHW Program received 740 consults from hospital clinics; 325 veterans enrolled in the program; and 226 veterans consented to participate in the pilot study.

Outcome Measures: Outcome measures included data from self-report questionnaires and electronic medical records.


Veterans enrolled in the program reported clinically significant depression, stress, insomnia, and pain-related interference in daily activities and deficits in health-related quality of life. Regarding use of the program services, individual acupuncture showed the greatest participation by veterans, followed by group auricular acupuncture and iRest yoga nidra. Of the 226 veterans who enrolled in the program and consented to participate in this study, 165 (73.01%) participated in >1 services in the first year of programming. Broadly speaking, enrollment in services appeared to be associated with gender and service branch but not with age or symptom severity.


Results have assisted with a strategic planning process for the IHW Program and have implications for expansion of CAM services within the VHA..

Kopacz MS, Connery AL, Bishop TM, Bryan CJ, Drescher KD, Currier JM, Pigeon WR.  Moral injury: A new challenge for complementary and alternative medicine. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Feb;24:29-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2015.11.003. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Moral injury represents an emerging clinical construct recognized as a source of morbidity in current and former military personnel. Finding effective ways to support those affected by moral injury remains a challenge for both biomedical and complementary and alternative medicine. This paper introduces the concept of moral injury and suggests two complementary and alternative medicine, pastoral care and mindfulness, which may prove useful in supporting military personnel thought to be dealing with moral injury. Research strategies for developing an evidence-base for applying these, and other, complementary and alternative medicine modalities to moral injury are discussed.

Mathersul DC, Dixit K, Schulz-Heik RJ, Avery TJ, Zeitzer JM, Bayley PJ. Emotion dysregulation and heart rate variability improve in US veterans undergoing treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder: Secondary exploratory analyses from a randomised controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry. 2022 Apr 15;22(1):268. doi: 10.1186/s12888-022-03886-3. PMID: 35428258; PMCID: PMC9012004.


Emotion regulation (ER) is a key process underlying posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), yet, little is known about how ER changes with PTSD treatment. Understanding these effects may shed light on treatment processes.


We recently completed a non-inferiority design randomised controlled trial demonstrating that a breathing-based yoga practice (Sudarshan kriya yoga; SKY) was not clinically inferior to cognitive processing therapy (CPT) across symptoms of PTSD, depression, or negative affect. Here, in secondary exploratory analyses (intent-to-treat N = 85; per protocol N = 59), we examined whether self-reported ER (Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale; DERS) and physiological ER (heart rate variability; HRV) improved with treatment for clinically significant PTSD symptoms among US Veterans.


DERS-Total and all six subscales improved with small-to-moderate effect sizes (d = .24-.66) following CPT or SKY, with no differences between treatment groups. Following SKY (but not CPT), HR max-min (average difference between maximum and minimum beats per minute), LF/HF (low-to-high frequency) ratio, and normalised HF-HRV (high frequency power) improved (moved towards a healthier profile; d = .42-.55).


To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that a breathing-based yoga (SKY) improved both voluntary/intentional and automatic/physiological ER. In contrast, trauma-focused therapy (CPT) only reliably improved self-reported ER. Findings have implications for PTSD treatment and interventions for emotional disorders more broadly.

Millegan J, Denninger JW, Bui E, Jakubovic RJ, Ram V, Bhakta J, Hiller Lauby MD, Mehta DH, Sager JC, Fricchione G, Sylvia LG. A mind-body program for pain and stress management in active duty service members and veterans. Psychol Serv. 2019 Jul 8.

The Mind-Body Medicine (MBM) program at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, created in collaboration with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine and the Home Base Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, is a 7-week program designed to facilitate stress management habits into patient treatment plans. The aim of this study is to test the feasibility and acceptability of a mind-body program for service members and veterans. Participants (N = 239) were primarily active duty service members of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps reporting significant perceived stress (Stress Resiliency (SR) group; n = 124), or meeting criteria for chronic pain (Pain Management (PM) group; n = 115). Participants completed measures at preprogram and post-program assessing for perceived stress, pain, functional impairment, quality of life, and psychological and somatic symptoms. Changes in self-reported psychological symptoms and knowledge and practice of mind-body principles were examined. Participants across groups had significant improvement in most outcomes (perceived stress, response to stressful experience, functional impairment, sleep disturbance, depression, PTSD, and anxiety symptoms; and each quality of life domain aside from social relationships), with p values < .0017 (Bonferroni corrected level of significance). The SR group demonstrated significant improvements in primary outcomes of perceived stress and response to stressful experience, and the PM group demonstrated significant improvement in pain severity, but not perceived stress. Significant change was observed in knowledge and practice of mind-body medicine principles, and high satisfaction was reported. Results suggest that a mind-body program may improve physical and psychological functioning for service members, including those facing significant perceived stress and chronic pain.

Richard D, Rousseau D, Umapathy K, Pandya H, Rousis G, Peeples P. Exploring the Impact of a Trauma-informed Yoga and Mindfulness Curriculum for Multiple Populations: A Pilot Study. Explore (NY). 2023 Jun 1:S1550-8307(23)00120-9. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2023.05.007. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37365081.

Individuals with trauma experience negative mental health impacts and are at risk of poor cardiovascular outcomes. Unmanaged, these conditions may worsen, compromising healing and wellbeing. Yoga, particularly trauma-informed, may improve outcomes. The current pilot study explores the impact of a novel trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness curriculum on wellbeing in two parts. The first examined mental health (stress, mood) outcomes in four trauma-impacted populations: adults who were incarcerated (INC), individuals in recovery from substance use disorders (SU), veterans (VA), and vulnerable youth (YTH) assessing both the impact of individual class participation and impact of attending at least four curriculum sessions. For the subgroup of incarcerated individuals, impact by theme was examined. After curriculum sessions, stress was reduced, and mood improved. Across multiple sessions both the largest decreases in stress and greatest increase in mood occurred after participant in the first session. Further, a specific exploration of curriculum class impact by theme for participants who were incarcerated indicated no difference in impact by theme. The second part of this study explored cardiovascular outcomes for the population of those in recovery from substance use. Reductions in systolic blood pressure occurred immediately after the first curriculum session, and diastolic blood pressure reduced over three consecutive sessions.

Saban KL, Collins EG, Mathews HL, Bryant FB, Tell D, Gonzalez B, Bhoopalam S, Chroniak CP, Janusek LW. Impact of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on Psychological Well-Being, Cortisol, and Inflammation in Women Veterans. J Gen Intern Med. 2022 Sep;37(Suppl 3):751-761.


Determine the effectiveness of MBSR in improving psychological well-being, cortisol, and inflammation associated with CVD in women veterans.


The design is a RCT comparing MBSR to an active control condition (ACC) consisting of a health education program.

Participants: Women veterans (N=164) with risk factors for CVD from the Chicagoland area participated in the study.

Intervention: An 8-week MBSR program with weekly 2.5-h classes was compared to an ACC consisting of an 8-week health promotion education program with weekly 2.5-h classes.

Main measures: The outcomes were psychological well-being [perceived stress, depressive symptoms, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)] symptoms and stress-related markers, including diurnal salivary cortisol and cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ). Data were collected at baseline, 4 weeks (mid-point of intervention), 8 weeks (completion of intervention), and 6 months after completion of MBSR or ACC.


Compared to the ACC, women who participated in MBSR reported less perceived stress, loneliness, and symptoms of PTSD. Although there were no significant differences between groups or changes over time in IL-6 or IFN-γ, participants in the MBSR program demonstrated a more rapid decline in diurnal salivary cortisol as compared to those in the ACC.


MBSR was found to improve psychological well-being and decrease diurnal salivary cortisol in women veterans at risk for CVD. Health care providers may consider MBSR for women veterans as a means by which to improve their psychological well-being.

Solloway MR, Taylor SL, Shekelle PG, Miake-Lye IM, Beroes JM, Shanman RM, Hempel S. An evidence map of the effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes. Syst Rev. 2016 Jul 27;5(1):126. doi: 10.1186/s13643-016-0300-y. PubMed PMID: 27460789; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4962385.


This evidence map describes the volume and focus of Tai Chi research reporting health outcomes. Originally developed as a martial art, Tai Chi is typically taught as a series of slow, low-impact movements that integrate the breath, mind, and physical activity to achieve greater awareness and a sense of well-being.


The evidence map is based on a systematic review of systematic reviews. We searched 11 electronic databases from inception to February 2014, screened reviews of reviews, and consulted with topic experts. We used a bubble plot to graphically display clinical topics, literature size, number of reviews, and a broad estimate of effectiveness.


The map is based on 107 systematic reviews. Two thirds of the reviews were published in the last five years. The topics with the largest number of published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were general health benefits (51 RCTs), psychological well-being (37 RCTs), interventions for older adults (31 RCTs), balance (27 RCTs), hypertension (18 RCTs), fall prevention (15 RCTs), and cognitive performance (11 RCTs). The map identified a number of areas with evidence of a potentially positive treatment effect on patient outcomes, including Tai Chi for hypertension, fall prevention outside of institutions, cognitive performance, osteoarthritis, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pain, balance confidence, and muscle strength. However, identified reviews cautioned that firm conclusions cannot be drawn due to methodological limitations in the original studies and/or an insufficient number of existing research studies.


Tai Chi has been applied in diverse clinical areas, and for a number of these, systematic reviews have indicated promising results. The evidence map provides a visual overview of Tai Chi research volume and content.

Son C, Hegde S, Markert C, Zahed K, Sasangohar F. Use of a Mobile Biofeedback App to Provide Health Coaching for Stress Self-management: Pilot Quasi-Experiment. JMIR Form Res. 2023 Apr 12;7:e41018. doi: 10.2196/41018. PMID: 36952560; PMCID: PMC10131670.


The purpose of this study was to determine if mobile health technology combined with health coaching can better enable a user to self-manage their mental health.


This study evaluated the mobile app "Biofeedback" that provided health coaching on stress self-management for college student veterans' mental health concerns. Twenty-four college student veterans were recruited from a large public university in Texas during the spring 2020 semester, impacted by COVID-19. Ten participants were assigned to the intervention group where they used the mobile Biofeedback app on their smartphones and smartwatches, and 14 were assigned to the control group without the app; assignment was based on mobile phone compatibility. Both groups participated in one initial lab session where they learned a deep-breathing exercise technique. The intervention group was then asked to use the mobile Biofeedback app during their daily lives and a smartwatch, and the control group was asked to perform the breathing exercises on their own. Both groups filled out Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) self-assessments at 2-week intervals. At the end of the semester, both groups were given an exit interview to provide user experience and perceived benefits of health coaching via the mobile biofeedback app.


The deep-breathing exercise in the initial lab session reduced stress in both groups. Over the course of the study, the app recorded 565 coached breathing exercises with a significant decrease (approximately 3 beats per minute) in participants' heart rate during the 6-minute time period immediately after conducting the breathing exercises (Spearman rank correlation coefficient -0.61, P<.001; S=9,816,176). There was no significant difference between the two groups for PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores over the course of the semester. Exit interview responses indicated that participants perceived that the mobile Biofeedback app improved their health and helped them address stress challenges. All participants reported that the intervention helped them manage their stress better and expressed that health coaching via a mobile device would improve their overall health.


Participants reported a positive perception of the app for their mental health self-management during a stressful semester. Future work should examine long-term effects of the app with a larger sample size balanced between male and female participants, randomized participant allocation, real-time detection of mental health symptoms, and additional features of the app.

Vitale A, Byma L, Sun S, Podolak E, Wang Z, Alter S, Galfalvy H, Geraci J, Langhoff E, Klingbeil H, Yehuda R, Haghighi F, Feder A. Effectiveness of Complementary and Integrative Approaches in Promoting Engagement and Overall Wellness Toward Suicide Prevention in Veterans. J Altern Complement Med. 2021 Mar;27(S1):S14-S27.


Suicide is a major public health problem, specifically among U.S. veterans, who do not consistently engage in mental health services, often citing stigma as a barrier. Complementary and Integrative Health (CIH) interventions are promising alternatives in promoting patient engagement and further, they may play a critical role in transitioning people into mental health care. Toward this goal, the Resilience and Wellness Center (RWC) was developed to break through the stigma barrier by addressing risk factors of suicide through multimodal CIH interventions via cohort design, promoting social connectedness and accountability among participants. Design: This is a program evaluation study at a large urban VA medical center, where assessments were evaluated from pre- to post-program completion to determine the effectiveness of an intensive multimodal CIH 4-week group outpatient intervention for suicide prevention. Outcome measures: Primary outcomes measured included group connectedness, severity of depression and hopelessness symptoms, suicidal ideation, sleep quality, and diet. Secondary outcomes included measures of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety severity stress/coping skills, pain, and fatigue. Results: The RWC showed high participant engagement, with an 84%-95% attendance engagement rate depending on suicide risk history. Data from 15 cohorts (N = 126) demonstrate favorable outcomes associated with participation in this comprehensive program, as evidenced by a reduction in suicidal ideation, depression, and hopelessness, but not sleep quality and diet. In addition, in a subset of veterans with a history of suicidal ideation or attempt, significant improvements were noted in pain, PTSD/anxiety symptoms, and stress coping measures. Conclusions: The RWC shows that an intensive complement of CIH interventions is associated with a significant improvement with high veteran engagement. Findings from this program evaluation study can be used to aid health care systems and their providers in determining whether or not to utilize such multimodal CIH integrated interventions as an effective treatment for at-risk populations as a part of suicide prevention efforts.