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Is relaxation useful before a doctor’s consultation?

Recently researchers established the link between relaxation methods and perception of health messages.

Many people feel stressed right before a doctor appointment. Sometimes the pressure from the stress makes them inattentive and can induce negative emotions including anxiety, fear, or shame. As a result, patients concentrate on one or two pieces of health messages delivered by their doctor and may misinterpret a lot of important information about their health.

Investigators from the University of Michigan provided four studies to assess whether relaxation through meditation lowers negative feelings and increases a patient’s ability to comprehend information about their health. The results were published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Overall, the studies involved 1447 adults divided into different groups. Participants listened to 10-minutes audio clips that gave instruction either about mindfulness meditation or breathing techniques and relaxation. These groups were compared with a group of people who did not learn about these relaxation techniques, instead, they listened to historical information about Michigan.

After listening to the audios, all participants read health messages about various diseases such as flu, cancer, HIV, herpes, gonorrhea, depression, anxiety, and general recommendations for managing mental health. Even fictional health information was offered to exclude any previous knowledge about diseases. To assess the effectiveness of relaxation, all participants  were asked to answer a multiple-choice test

The study showed evidence that adults using relaxation methods paid more attention to health information. Participants reported that they had less negative feelings after relaxation and became more positive, which lead to increased attention and the ability to retain the information.

Researchers suggest that being in a calmer mood will enhance a patient’s education about their health condition. The researchers suggest that spending time in a waiting room wisely and paying attention to relaxation could help with retaining healthcare information. However, if patients feel extremely stressed and unable to relax, they also may take a family member or a friend to the appointment so they can take notes during a doctor’s consultation.

Written by Anna Otvodenko

References:

Takahashi, K. and Earl, A. (2019). Effect of Extraneous Affect on Health Message Reception. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, p.014616721985504.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Seeing the doctor? Relax, you’ll remember more. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/uom-std062419.php [Accessed 25 Jun. 2019].

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