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Table 2 Summary of Non-Randomised Controlled Trials of Retreat Interventions

From: The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review

Reference Study design Population (includes comparator group/s) Intervention Place (bold font indicates country) Comparator Timing of measures Outcome Measures Results
Al-Hussaini et al., 2001 [9] Observational study with control Vipassana Meditation Course participants (n = 45); Intervention (n = 14), Nil Intervention (n = 31) 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat involving silent sitting and/or walking meditation, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, specific breathing practices and daily lectures. Muscat, Oman No intervention Pre and post-retreat General Health (General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28)) Sig. improvements in physical and psychological well-being in the Vipassana but not control group.
Khurana & Dhar, 2000 [10] Observational study with controls Male and Female Prison inmates (n = 150); Intervention (n = 75), Nil Intervention (n = 75). 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat involving silent sitting and/or walking meditation, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, specific breathing practices and daily lectures. Tihar Jail, India No intervention Pre and post-retreat Subjective Well-being, scale), Quality of Life (Life Satisfaction Scale), Criminal Propensity Scale. Sig. improvements in Criminal Propensity and Subjective Well-being in male inmates of Vipassana group compared with conrol.
Emavardhana & Tori, 1997 [11] Observational study with controls Teenagers, some teachers and other adults (n = 719); Intervention (n = 438), Nil Intervention (n = 281) 7-day Vipassana Meditation retreat involving silent sitting and/or walking meditation, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, specific breathing practices and daily lectures. Young Buddhists Association Retreat Center, Bangkok, Thailand No intervention Pre and post-retreat Self Esteem (Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (TSCS)), Life Style Index, Buddhist Beliefs and Practices Scale Sig. improvement in self-esteem and self-concept post-retreat
Chandiramani et al., 1995 [12] Observational study (study I)
Observational study with control (study II)
Prison inmates (n = 270); Study I (n = 120), No comparator. Study II (n = 150), Intervention (n = 85), Nil Intervention (n = 65). 10-day Vipassana Meditation retreat involving silent sitting and/or walking meditation, avoidance of caffeine and alcohol, specific breathing practices and daily lectures. Tihar Jail, India No intervention Pre-retreat, post-retreat, 3 and 6 months post-retreat (study II only) Well-being (Psychological General Well-being Index (PGI) scale), Hope (Miller and Power hope scale), hostility questionnaire Sig. improvement in physical and psychological health in the intervention group (Study II). Both studies showed sig. Reductions in anxiety and depression scores post-retreat (p < 0.001) in the Vipassana group but not in the control group.
Garland et al., 2009 [13]; Garland, 2007 [14]; Angen et al., 2002 [15] Longitudinal cohort study with control Advanced breast, prostate or colon cancer patients (n = 15), their partners (n = 15), natural history group of patients (n = 20) and their partners (n = 20) 5-day Tapestry Psychosocial Retreat: Intensive psychosocial intervention for palliative care patients and their partners based on the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. Retreat and Renewal Centre outside of Calgary, Canada No intervention Pre-retreat, post-retreat, 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months post-retreat Quality of Life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy – General Form (FACT-G), McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQOL), Quality of Life in Life Thretreating Illness – Family (QOLLTI-F) questionnaire, Fatigue (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy – Fatigue (FACT-F)), Spirituality and Purpose (Functional Assessment of Chronic Ilness and Treatment-Spirtuality Subscale FACIT-Sp)) Depression (Beck Depression Inventory-II, Hopelessness Scale, Brief Symptom Inventory-18), Index of marital satisfaction (IMS). Patients in the tapestry group demonstrated Sig. improvement in marital satisfaction (p = .011) with less psychological wellbeing (p = 0.029), support (p = 0.021) and poorer social wellbeing (p = 0.01)than patients in the natural history group. Partners of patients in the Tapestry group reported more financial worries p = 0.05, and less marital satisfaction p = 0.05 than partners of patients not attending the retreat. Both the Tapestry and natural history groups reported more fatigue as time progressed regardless of groups.
Ornish et al., 2013 [16]; Ornish et al., 2008 [17] Descriptive study with control Men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer (n = 35); Intervention (n = 10), Standard care (n = 25) 3-day Lifestyle Modification Retreat and Outpatient phase as part of 3-month Comprehensive Lifestyle Modification Program: Low-fat, wholefoods, plant-based diet with supplements. Stress management (gentle yoga-based stretching, breathing, meditation, imagery, and progressive relaxation), moderate aerobic exercise and weekly group support sessions. Education and counselling by registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, clinical psychologist, nurse, and stress management instructor. Outpatient phase included weekly telephone contact with a study nurse. Retreat location not reported, United States Standard care Pre-retreat, post-retreat and 5 years post-retreat BMI, blood pressure, relative telomere length of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and telomerase activity, Lifestyle adherence (Lifestyle-index scores). Sig. improvements in weight, abdominal obesity, blood pressure, and lipid profile were observed (all P < 0.05). Sig. increase in relative telomere length after 5 years in retreat group compared to decrease in control. Adherence to lifestyle changes associated with sig. Increase in telomere length compared with control.