Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers in Economics,
University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics

No 725: Mindfulness and Stress - a Randomised Experiment

Yonas Alem (), Hannah Behrendt , Michele Belot and Anikó Bíró
Additional contact information
Yonas Alem: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University, Postal: P.O. Box 640, SE 40530 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Hannah Behrendt: Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh
Michele Belot: Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh
Anikó Bíró: Department of Economics, University of Edinburgh, Corvinus University of Budapest and Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Abstract: We conduct a randomised controlled trial of an online course in mindfulness. Previous research has found evidence that mindfulness reduces stress; however, few studies have been carried out on non-clinical populations that have not self-selected into or paid for treatment. Our sample consists of 139 students with no pre-existing medical conditions and no prior information on the experiment and treatments. Half of them are asked to follow a four-week mindfulness training, while the other half are asked to watch a four-week series of historical documentaries. We follow participants for five consecutive weeks, with an additional post-intervention session five months later. We evaluate the effects of the mindfulness program on measures of chronic stress, and on the response to stressful situations, measured by cortisol and self-reports. We find strong evidence that mindfulness training reduces perceived stress, as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale. However, the physiological responses to an acutely stressful situation do not differ significantly between the treatment and control groups.

Keywords: Stress; Mindfulness; Experiment

JEL-codes: C81; C91; I10

43 pages, March 2018

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