Attending a non-denominational spiritual retreat can help patients with severe heart trouble feel less depressed and more hopeful about the future, a University of Michigan Health System study has found.
Heart patients who participated in a four-day retreat that included techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, drumming, journal writing and outdoor activities saw immediate improvement in tests measuring depression and hopefulness. Those improvements persisted at three- and six-month follow-up measurements.
The retreat group was compared to two other groups: one received standard cardiac care and the other participated in a lifestyle change retreat run by the U-M Cardiovascular Center that focused on nutrition, physical exercise and stress management.
The spiritual retreat group went from a baseline score of 12 on the Beck Depression Inventory, indicating mild to moderate depression, to an improved score of 6 immediately afterward, a 50-percent reduction. Their scores remained that low half a year later. The lifestyle group saw their scores drop from 11 to 7 and remain there. The control group’s score started at 8 and went down to 6.
Participants also showed marked improvement in their scores on a test measuring hope. Scores on the State Hope Scale can range from 6 to 48, with higher scores indicating greater hope. All three study groups started with average scores between 34 and 36. After the spiritual retreat, participants’ average scores rose and stayed at 40 or above, while the other two groups’ averages remained significantly lower, ranging from 35 to 38, three and six months later.