The Effects of Tai Chi on Pschological well-being
Another study says “tai chi seems promising but more study is needed.”
– by Ian Sinclair
Tai Chi may have a positive effect on the levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. It seems to enhance the moods of people with chronic conditions as well as benefiting healthy people who have not been diagnosed with any psychological pathology.
This is according to a research article published by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010 called
“Tai Chi on psychological well-being: systematic review and meta-analysis”
The research article was submitted by six researchers from Tufts Medical Center in the Division of Rheumatology and the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies.
The article was published at www.biomedcentral.com on May 21, 2010.
This appears to be the first meta-analysis ever published regarding tai chi and its psychological effect.
In their analysis, researchers looked at forty studies (of a combined 3817 subjects), which assessed a total of twenty-nine psychological measurements.
The results of some studies showed that “…1 hour to one year of regular tai chi significantly increased psychological well-being…” in healty participants and in chronic patients. Also, seven studies with “relatively large sample sizes” showed the positive effect of tai chi.
This author notes that this report, like most studies into the benefits of tai chi, is encouraging but inconclusive.
The analysis includes data from studies published over a twenty-nine year period. They studies were conducted in China, USA, Germany, France, Australia, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The types of studies included 17 randomized controlled trials, 16 non-randomized comparison studies and 7 observational studies.
The researchers from Tufts stopped short of drawing definitive conclusions stating that:
- the meta-analysis excluded unpublished studies,
- there were too few randomized controlled trials,
- the data collection was heterogeneous,
- there was no adequate comparison with other types of exercise
- there was inadequate measurement of such indicators as cortisol level, blood pressure, or heart rate.
- some studies only reported a subset of psychological outcomes.
While the results seem promising and bear out what tai chi teachers have long suspected, the researchers say the studies were too small to draw definitive conclusions. The report itslef concludes that “definitive conclusions were limited due to variation in designs, comparisons, heterogeneous outcomes and inadequate controls. High-quality, well-controlled, longer randomized trials are needed to better inform clinical decisions.”
There is as growing body of research into the health effects of tai chi. But studies such as this one, seem to say more about the state of research than they do about the effects of tai chi.
As such, I am glad to see a study which can help to put some of the current body of research into perspective.
Each time someone releases a clinical study, I’m sure that biostatisticians somewhere are rolling their eyes.
I am not a medical researcher. I don’t even have university degree. I’m just some tai chi guy. But I will aver that many simple tai chi teachers like myself are concerned about the nature of clinical research.
When an associate of mine was involved in a tai chi study a few years ago, he was initially concerned by the extremely positive spin that the statistical analysis seemed to put on the data. His concern was that if he released the results, he might appear to be a quack, given the inadequate science behind a lot of previously published research. It took some considerable reassurance for him to be comfortable releasing the statical analysis.
Tai chi teachers are very seldom in it for the money. Many operate their schools for free or at a loss. We believe strongly in what we do. But the art was created from centuries of research, practice, comtemplation and soul searching. We will not benefit from bad research blow smoke up anyone’s huiyin.
It makes us crazy.