Aim. This paper reports a study to determine the effectiveness of autogenic training in reducing anxiety in nursing students.
Background. Nursing is stressful, and nursing students also have the additional pressures and uncertainties shared with all academic students. Autogenic training is a relaxation technique consisting of six mental exercises and is aimed at relieving tension, anger and stress. Meta-analysis has found large effect sizes for autogenic trainings intervention comparisons, medium effect sizes against control groups, and no effects when compared with other psychological therapies. A controlled trial with 50 nursing students found that the number of certified days off sick was reduced by autogenic training compared with no treatment, and a second trial with only 18 students reported greater improvement in Trait Anxiety, but not State Anxiety, compared with untreated controls.
Methods. A randomized controlled trial with three parallel arms was completed in 1998 with 93 nursing students aged 19–49 years. The setting was a university college in the United Kingdom. The treatment group received eight weekly sessions of autogenic training, the attention control group received eight weekly sessions of laughter therapy, and the time control group received no intervention. The outcome measures were the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, blood pressure and pulse rate completed at baseline, 2 months (end of treatment), and 5, 8, and 11 months from randomization.
Results. There was a statistically significantly greater reduction of State (P < 0·001) and Trait (P < 0·001) Anxiety in the autogenic training group than in both other groups immediately after treatment. There were no differences between the groups for the Maslach Burnout Inventory. The autogenic training group also showed statistically significantly greater reduction immediately after treatment in systolic (P < 0·01) and diastolic (P < 0·05) blood pressure, and pulse rate (P < 0·002), than the other two groups.
Conclusion. Autogenic training has at least a short-term effect in alleviating stress in nursing students.