Effectiveness of providing university students with a mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress: one-year follow-up of a pragmatic randomised controlled trial

Julieta Galante, Jan Stochl, Geraldine Dufour, Maris Vainre, Adam Peter Wagner, Peter Brian Jones

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28 Citations (Scopus)
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Background There is concern that increasing demand for student mental health services reflects deteriorating student well-being. We designed a pragmatic, parallel, single-blinded randomised controlled trial hypothesising that providing mindfulness courses to university students would promote their resilience to stress up to a year later. Here we present 1-year follow-up outcomes. Methods University of Cambridge students without severe mental illness or crisis were randomised (1:1, remote software-generated random numbers), to join an 8-week mindfulness course adapted for university students (Mindfulness Skills for Students (MSS)), or to mental health support as usual (SAU). Results We randomised 616 students; 53% completed the 1-year follow-up questionnaire. Self-reported psychological distress and mental well-being improved in the MSS arm for up to 1 year compared to SAU (p<0.001). Effects were smaller than during the examination period. No significant differences between arms were detected in the use of University Counselling Service and other support resources, but there was a trend for MSS participants having milder needs. There were no differences in students' workload management; MSS participants made more donations. Home practice had positive dose-response effects; few participants meditated. No adverse effects related to self-harm, suicidality or harm to others were detected. Conclusion Loss to follow-up is a limitation, but evidence suggests beneficial effects on students' average psychological distress that last for at least a year. Effects are on average larger at stressful times, consistent with the hypothesis that this type of mindfulness training increases resilience to stress. Trial registration number ACTRN12615001160527.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Epidemiology & Community Health
Issue number2
Early online date10 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2021


  • Health services
  • Mental health
  • Psychological stress
  • Randomised trials

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