Massage therapy was found to greater enhance positive well-being and reduce stress among adults age 60 and older, compared to guided relaxation, according to a recent study.

In the pilot study “A randomised study of the effects of massage therapy compared to guided relaxation on well-being and stress perception among older adults,” a group of 49 independently living adults age 60 and older were randomly selected to a guided-relaxation group or massage-therapy group to assess levels of well-being and stress perception. Participants were screened via telephone and in person for inclusion criteria. Participants who received massage within three months of the start of the study were excluded from the experiment.

relaxing massage with hot stone

Massage therapy was found to greater enhance positive well-being and reduce stress

The massage-therapy group received 50-minute massage sessions twice weekly for four consecutive weeks. The sessions were conducted by licensed massage therapists and included neuromuscular, myofascial and Swedish massage techniques. Approximately 20 minutes of the session included work with participants in the prone position, with the remaining time spent in the supine position.

The guided-relaxation group received 50-minute relaxation sessions twice weekly for four consecutive weeks. During the sessions, a trained research assistant read a script to participants and used visualization and muscle relaxation while the participants were lying in the supine position on a massage table.

To measure the participants well-being and stress perception, a General Well-Being Schedule (GWB Schedule) and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) were used.

The GWB Schedule measures anxiety, depression, positive well-being, self-control, vitality and general health. High scores in this measurement indicate a greater well-being or less distress. The PSS is a 14-item scale with a five-point response format that measures the degree of stress in one’s life during the past month. High scores in this measurement indicate a greater perceived stress.

Data from each participant was collected one week prior to the start of sessions and one week after the last session.

Before receiving the sessions, the groups did not differ by level of distress. However, after completion of the sessions, results of the study showed the massage-therapy group experienced significantly positive changes in anxiety, depression, positive well-being, vitality, general health and perceived stress, compared to the guided-relaxation group.

“This study supports the potential of massage therapy as an adjunctive therapy in enhancing positive well-being and reducing stress perception among older adults,” say the study’s authors.

Dian Xue therapy massage therapy

massage is positive for well-being and reducing stress

Source: Prevention Research Center, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina; Department of Exercise Science and Perceptual-Motor Development Laboratory, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina; University of Nevada, Reno, School of Public Health, Reno, Nevada; and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Authors: Patricia A. Sharpe, Harriet G. Williams, Michelle L. Granner and James R. Hussey. Originally published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine (2007) 15, 157–163.