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Table 3 Summary of Longitudinal Cohort Studies 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) Timing of measures Outcome Measures Results
Newberg et al., 2017 [18] Observational study Christian faith (n = 14), No comparator 7-day Ignatian Spiritual Retreat: Morning mass, personal reflection, contemplation, prayer, daily meeting with Spiritual Director. Meals eaten in common dining area with other retreatants but typically maintain overall silence of the retreat. Jesuit Center, Wernersville, Pennsylvania, United States Pre-retreat (up to 1 month before) and post-retreat (up to 2 weeks after) Dopamine and seratonin transporter binding in midbrain (DaTscan single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)), Speilberger State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y), Profile of Moods Scale (POMS), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Short Form Health Survey (SF-12), Cloninger Self Transcendence Scale, Spirituality (Index of Core Spiritual Experiences (INSPIRIT)) Sig. decreases in dopamine transporter binding in the basal ganglia and in serotonin transporter binding in the midbrain post-retreat. Sig. changes in a variety of psychological and spiritual measures including improvement in perceived physical health, decreases in tension and fatigue, more intense religious and spiritual beliefs, feeling more religious and more spiritual and increase in feelings of self-transcendence.
Cohen et al., 2017 [19] Observational study Gwinganna Lifestyle retreat guests (n = 37), No comparator 7-day Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat: Choice of nature walks, boxing, dance, spin classes, qi gong, yoga, Pilates, meditation, educational talks, spa treatments, massage, body treatments, counseling sessions, and other healing modalities. Organic diet with mainly plant-based foods, some fish and egg protein, no added sugar or salt, no gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, or canned or packaged food. Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Tallebudgera Valley, Queensland, Australia Pre-retreat, post-retreat, 6 weeks post-retreat. Height, weight, abdominal girth, blood pressure, urinary pesticide metabolites; food and health symptom questionnaire, Five Factor Wellness Inventory (FFW), Pittsburgh Insomnia Rating Scale (PIRS), Depression, Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), Profile of Mood States (POMS), Generalized Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE), Health Symptom Questionnaire (HSQ), and Cogstate cognitive function test battery. Sig. improvements in all anthropometric measures (p < 0.001) and psychological and health measures (p < 0.05) post-retreat with a trend for improved health symptom frequency and severity. Health symptom frequency and severity continued to improve and became statistically sig. 6-weeks post-retreat, other measures reduced somewhat and were no longer statistically sig., even though they remained below pre-retreat levels.
Steinhubl et al., 2015 [20] Observational study Experienced and novice meditators (n = 40); Experienced (n = 20), Novice (n = 20) 7-day Wellness retreat: Silent mantra meditation, talks, guided deep breathing exercise (pranayama), yoga and other activities supporting inner calm in individual and group settings. Retreat location not reported, United States Pre and post-retreat Heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV), mean arterial pressure, electroencephalograph ((EEG); 14 sensors plus 2 references) Sig., measureable EEG changes in experienced and novice meditators. Meditation was associated with a small, but statistically sig. Decrease in blood pressure in a normotensive population.
Hadgkiss et al., 2013a [21]; Li et al., 2010 [22]. Longitudinal cohort study Multiple Sclerosis patients (n = 274); No comparator 5-day Lifestyle Modification Retreat: Low-fat, plant-based diet, exercise, sunlight exposure, vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation. Educational program, meditation and stress reduction techniques, counselling, yoga and qigong. The Gawler Foundation, Victoria, Australia Pre-retreat and 1, 2.5 and 5 years post retreat (2.5 years phased out) Health-related quality of life (HRQOL), Multiple Sclerosis Quality Of Life Questionnaire (MSQOL-54) Sig. improvements in HRQOL including overall quality of life domain (p < 0.001); physical health composite (p < 0.001); and mental health composite (p < 0.001). Further improvements at 5 years for overall quality of life; physical health composite and mental health composite
Vella & Budd et al., 2011 [23] Observational study Female reast cancer patients (n = 28); No comparator 7-day Photographic Art Therapy Retreat: Photographic art therapy in concert with psychoanalytically oriented group therapy, mind-body practices (optional yoga and meditation), lectures, discussion and support groups and very low-fat diet and exercise. F. Holland Day Center for Creativity and Healing, Georgetown, Maine, United States Pre-retreat, post-retreat and 6 weeks post-retreat Anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms (Brief Symptom Inventory-18 (BSI)), Quality of life (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G)), Spiritual well-being (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual
Well-being (FACIT-sp) subscale).
Sig. reductions in depression, anxiety and somatic stress and sig. Improvements in QoL and spiritual wellbeing that were sustained after 6 weeks.
Conboy et al., 2009 [24] Observational study Women (n = 20); No comparator 5-day Panchakarma Ayurvedic Retreat and 3-weeks (Min.) Pre-Retreat and 2-weeks Post-Retreat: Individual assessments, massage treatments, cleansing diet, yoga session, cooking class and group discussion. Pre-intervention includes guidance to modify diet and begin taking common herbal supplements. Post-intervention continues the cleansing process with lifestyle recommendations to maintain balance long term. Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health, United States Pre-retreat, post-retreat and 3 months post-retreat Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile, Quality of life (SF-12), Self efficacy (single measure), Anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), Social support (Interpersonal Support Evaluation List and Sarason Scoial Support Questionnaire), Perceived Stress Scale). Sig. improvements in self-efficacy towards using Ayurveda to improve health with sig. Improvements in perceived social support and depression 3 months post-retreat
Kennedy et al., 2003 [25] Observational study Rice Diet Program Participants (n = 101); No comparator 10-day (Min.) Rice Diet Retreat: Very low-fat diet and exercise. Optional participation in yoga and meditation classes. Lectures, discussion and support groups, including a discussion group on spirituality. Durham, North Carolina, United States Pre and post-retreat Spirituality (3 item questionnaire), well-being (12 item questionnaire), meaning in life (1 item questionnaire) and anger (4 item questionnaire). Increased spirituality positively associated with increased well-being, increased sense of meaning and purpose in life, and decreased tendency to become angry.
Beatus et al., 2002 [26] Observational study People with Multiple Sclerosis (n = 41) 6-day summer retreat offered annually by The Multiple Sclerosis Society to individuals with MS. The retreat encourages physical activity, art, and social interaction. Specific location not stated, United States Pre- and post-retreat Rosenburg Self-Esteem Scale (Self-E), Multiple Sclerosis Quality of Life-54 Instrument (MSQOL-54), Activities of Daily Living (Activities of Daily Living Self Care Scale for persons with multiple sclorisis (ADL-MS). Sig. increase in the mental component of quality of life.
Kennedy et al., 2002 [27] Observational study Patients with coronary disease and their partners (n = 72); Patients (n = 51), Partners (n = 21) 2.5-day Educational Retreat ‘Choice to Review’: Open discussions with healthcare professionals, activities such as stress-reduction techniques, (progressive relaxation, yoga, breathing exercises, visualization, and imagery), exercise options, nutritional counseling and vegetarian food, group exercises that encourage self-efficacy, enhance social support, build self-esteem and improve communication skills, and spiritual principles and techniques for healing (meditation, prayer and forgivesness) Remote location, United States Pre-retreat, post-retreat and 4–6 months post-retreat Spirituality (3 item questionnaire), well-being (12 item questionnaire), meaning in life (1 item questionnaire) and anger (4 item questionnaire). Changes in spirituality were positively associated with increased well-being, meaning in life, and confidence in handling problems, and with decreased tendency to become angry. No sig. Differences 4 and 6 months post-retreat.