The Effect of a Web-Based Deep Breathing App on Stress of Direct Care Workers: Uncontrolled Intervention Study.
Kim J, Gray JA, Johnson H.
Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). 2021; ():

Abstract

Objectives: Studies have demonstrated success in reducing stress levels in complex interventions including deep breathing components. Breathing exercise interventions, however, tend not to be studied in isolation. The aim of the study was to examine the impact of a breathing exercise using a web-based app on the stress levels of direct care workers (DCWs) who serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Design: Uncontrolled one-group intervention. Settings/Location: DCWs were recruited from intellectual and developmental disability service providers in a US Midwestern state. Subjects: Sixty-four DCWs who used the breathing exercise app at least 2 times. Interventions: Breathing exercise using a web-based app for a month. Outcome measures: Five measures were obtained from the data recorded in the app: initial stress level before exercise, exercise duration in minutes, change in stress level between before and after each breathing exercise, and frequency and number of days the app was used during a month. Participants' self-report of the number of days of app use was collected in a 1-month follow-up survey. RESULTS: The participants appear to have a moderate stress level indicated by the initial stress level 5 out of 10. After the breathing exercise, the stress level decreased by 1.2 points from 5.0 (standard deviation [SD] = 1.8) to 3.7 (SD = 1.6) on average (paired t-test, p < 0.00005). Cohen's d 0.72 indicates a large effect size. Among within-individual factors, a higher initial stress level and longer app use per occasion were significantly associated with stress reduction. Among between-individual factors, only race was associated with stress reduction. Although there was no effect of being an African American alone on stress level change (coefficient = 0.44, 95% confidence interval = -0.29 to 1.18, p > 0.05), there was an additional reduction among African Americans in relation to the initial stress level, controlling for exercise duration. The number of breathing exercise days recorded in the app was not correlated with that of self-report (Pearson's correlation r = 0.12, p > 0.05). Although the app was used for 4.4 (SD = 4.2) days, participants reported using it for 10.7 (SD = 8.2) days on average in the follow-up survey. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest the benefit of breathing exercises using an app for reducing DCWs' stress levels. Regular use of such apps may assist with stress management and bolster overall health and well-being among DCWs.



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