Mindfulness student study
15 Oct 2018

Mindfulness student study

Published Date: 15 Oct 2018

Worldwide, increasing numbers of young people (YP) go to university, but there is concern about students’ rising need for mental health services. YP’s journey through university provides a golden yet under-used opportunity for prevention. Mindfulness meditation training is popular amongst YP. There is evidence for the efficacy of mindfulness training to improve symptoms of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, but its effectiveness to increase resilience to stress in university students needed confirmation.

To address these issues the University of Cambridge (UoC) and CLAHRC EoE funded an implementation and evaluation project co-produced between the University Counselling Service, the Academic Division and the Department of Psychiatry, with a student advisory group involved throughout.

The pragmatic, randomised controlled trial tested the main hypothesis that mindfulness training could reduce students’ distress, assessing the impact of an 8 week Mindfulness Skills for Students (MSS) course provided in the year leading up to the annual examination period. Compared with participants assigned to receive mental health support as usual, MSS participants were a third less likely to experience psychological distress at a clinically relevant level during the examination period.

Preventative mindfulness courses were concluded as acceptable to students and universities, and as feasible and effective components of a wider student mental health strategy. The study highlights a need for comparative effectiveness research on preventative mental health interventions for students.

UoC are planning to extend provision of mindfulness training to students and this is an example of participatory research informing student welfare policy. (See press release).

An NIHR Research Fellowship has been awarded to Julieta Galante (PI) on ‘mindfulness-based interventions for mental health promotion: a collaborative review study’.

Contribution of CLAHRC East of England

CLAHRC EoE part funded the study in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. This funding supported Julieta Galante’s (PI) leadership of the study. The Chief Investigator is Professor Peter Jones, Director of CLAHRC EoE.

Jan Stochl (Statistician) provided statistical support to the study. Adam Wagner (Health Economist / Statistician) also provided statistical support and is additionally leading an economic evaluation of the intervention in the study (results in due course). CLAHRC funding supported their involvement. 

What happened next?

The Lancet Public Health publication (Dec 2017) is currently one of the journals most read articles, and has led to significant media interest (examples: Guardian, National Elf Service, and Medical Express).

The CI and PI are exploring opportunities to examine the generalisability of MSS to other HE settings; the UoC counselling service is hosting an implementation event bringing together interested parties, and collaborative working with the University of Helsinki is underway to drive implementation of the approach.

An NIHR Research Fellowship has been awarded to Julieta Galante (PI) on ‘mindfulness-based interventions for mental health promotion: a collaborative review study’.