Meta-analytic evaluation of stress reduction interventions for undergraduate and graduate students.

Growing numbers of students in college or graduate school experience high stress, resulting in adverse emotional, academic, and health outcomes. A variety of stress reduction interventions have been used with students, but their effectiveness has not been systematically examined. We used meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy of stress reduction interventions for undergraduate and graduate students. Studies (k = 43) that used an appropriate control group and assessed distress before and after intervention were aggregated using a random-effects model. Most studies were conducted in the United States; others were from Asia, Europe, and Australia. Standardized mean gain difference effect sizes were calculated for anxiety and perceived stress for six intervention techniques. Moderators examined included student type (undergraduate and graduate) and duration of intervention. Results indicate that most interventions are effective in decreasing both outcomes in students. Cognitive—behavioral therapy, coping skills, and social support interventions were more effective in reducing perceived stress, whereas relaxation training, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and psychoeducation were more effective in reducing anxiety. Graduate students experienced greater reduction in anxiety than did undergraduates for relaxation training and psychoeducation interventions. Participants in both long- and short-term interventions showed significant reduction in anxiety and perceived stress relative to control groups, but for relaxation training, long-term interventions were more effective in reducing anxiety than were short-term interventions. Although all six techniques were effective in reducing at least one of the stress-related outcomes, the few differences in effectiveness suggest there is value in tailoring interventions toward the particular group and outcome being targeted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)