Research 

The effects of Meditation on Depression, social Anxiety, Aggression, and Salivary Cortisol Level of Elementary school Children in South Korea

Yang-Gyeong Yoo, RN, PhD, Duck-Joo Lee, PhD,  In-Soo Lee, PhD, Namin Shin, EdD, Ju-Yeon Park, BA, Mi-Ra Yoon, RN, PhD, Boas Yu, RN, EdD, FNP-BC, CNE, GCNS

This study analyzed the effects of a school-based meditation program on depression, social anxiety, aggression, and salivary cortisol levels of 42 elementary school children in South Korea. The research design was a nonequivalent group comparison with pretest and post-test. The experimental group was given 8 weeks of the meditation program. The results showed social anxiety, aggression, and salivary cortisol levels were significantly lowered in the experimental group. This demonstrated that the school-based meditation program could be effective in improving psychosocial and behavioral aspects of mental health in elementary school children.

Background

With rapid changes in today’s modern society, stress levels in elementary school students are increasing due to school performance pressures and competitions, peer relationship, and family issue. These risk factors are linked to anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and attempts, and other mental health problems(Bae, Park& Yang 2012; Byrne&Mazanov, 2003; Lee,2011a, 2011c). Within the United States, there has been an increased attention on school-based promotion of students’ social and emotional competence to improve poor academic motivation, school dropout, school bullying and aggression, and mental health problems(Scholnert-Redichl et al., 2015). However, one-third of youth attending schools in the United Stateds meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, with anxiety being the most common condition(Gibson, 2011). It has been also estimated that two thirds of
your with mental health problems are not getting the help they need(Varcarolis,2013)

Participants of the Research

At the beginning of this research study, the total number of participants able to be recruited for this study consisted 54 elementary students in a city of South Korea.

Research Design

This study used nonequivalent group comparison with retest and posttest design to examine the effects of a school-based meditation program on depression, social anxiety, aggression, and salivary cortisol levels of elementary school students. The experimental group was given the meditation
program sessions by their instructor four times a week with 30 minutes per session, for a total of 8 weeks. The control group was given reading sessions with same frequencies as the experimental group; four times a week with 30 minutes per session, for a total of 8 weeks.

Evaluative Tools

Questionnaires for depression, social anxiety, and aggression as well as salivary cortisol levels for stress level testing were completed in this study.

Results

After the meditation program, the depression scores decreased

Before the program, depression mean score for the experimental group was 5.91; for the control group it was 12.42. The experimental group’s scores were low, which was statistically significant (p<.001). After the program, the experimental group was lower (4.52) than the control group (12.39)(p<.001). Analyzing by ANCOVA to control for the previous scores, the experimental group was still lower (7.34) than the control group (8.79).

After the meditation program, the social anxiety scores decreased

Mean pretest score for the experimental group was 31.18; and for the control group it was 36.22, which showed no significance difference in social anxiety (p=.119). After the program, the social anxiety mean scores for the experimental group were lower (30.44) than the control group (46.29), which was statistically significant (p=.001). With ANCOVA to control for the previous pretest scores, the experimental group was lower (31.08) than the control group (44.20)(p=.001). This analysis demonstrated effectiveness of the school-based meditation program in reducing social anxiety, regardless of the pretest scoring on social anxiety.

After the meditation program, the aggression scores decreased

The analyzed effect on aggression demonstrates that pretest aggression mean scores for the experimental group was lower(36.36) than the control group(46.35), which was statistically
significant(P=.012). After the program, the experimental group was significantly lower (30.74) than the control group(45.94)(P<.001). Through an analysis using ANCOVA to control for the previous pretest scores, the experimental group was still significantly lower (32.42) than the control group (44.12)
(p<.001); demonstrating the effectiveness of the meditation program on reducing aggression, regardless of the pretest scores.

After the meditation program, the cortisol level decreased

Before the program, the experimental group’s mean score was 0.052 and the control group was 0.080, which was statistically significant (p=.024). After the program, the experimental group mean score was
significantly lower (0.046) than the control group (0.073) (p<.001). Using ANCOVA to control for the pretest scores, it was shown that the experimental group was still significantly lower (0.049) than the control group (0.070) (p=.003), Regardless of the pretest scores, the program was shown to be
effective in lowering cortisol level in the elementary school students.

Conclusion

This study demonstrated improvements in social anxiety, aggression, and stress in elementary school students receiving the school-based meditation program. By recognizing negative aspects of emotions
(stress, social anxiety, and aggression) and eliminating them through reflection mindset to positive. Because these positive effects of the meditation program were possible with a short duration of meditation sessions offered during the school year, this suggests practicality and usefulness of such program for application in a variety of diverse healthcare settings.