Relaxation Training for Anxiety: A Ten-Years Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis

Gian Mauro Manzoni; Francesco Pagnini; Gianluca Castelnuovo; Enrico Molinari


BMC Psychiatry 

In This Article


Notwithstanding its limitations, the present meta-analytical study show consistent and significant efficacy of relaxation training in reducing anxiety, coherently with past studies and reviews.[26,30,28,27] The first hypothesis is then confirmed: post-treatment anxiety is lower than baseline level and relaxation training outperforms control conditions on anxiety-specific measures.

While all relaxation trainings reduced anxiety, applied relaxation, progressive relaxation and meditation showed greater effect sizes than other techniques. In particular, this meta-analysis evidences the lower potential of multi-methods relaxation. The use of one of the main relaxation techniques is preferable, at least for anxiety reduction.

Both psychological or psychosomatic patients and volunteer subjects gain more benefits from relaxation training. The reduction of anxiety for medical patients is lower in comparison to the others categories, but relaxation training still has good efficacy.

It is possible, even if it should be investigated by further studies, that young people can have a better decreasing of anxiety levels, compared to old people.

The potential of the training increase together with its intensity. The most effective trainings are long-lasting, especially with the practice of the exercises at home.

The context of application results to be irrelevant. Treatments are equally effective in anxiety reduction, both for in-group or individual sessions.

Different anxiety questionnaires present different sensitivity to anxiety changing. Trait anxiety reductions were lower than state anxiety, assessed with the two scales of the STAI. Studies that used the BAI obtained higher effect sizes, maybe due to a greater sensitivity of this instrument.

This meta-analysis deals with scores obtained by anxiety questionnaires and cannot be generalized to other aspects, even if anxiety can be considered as a construct related to a lot of human dimensions. For this reason, this work does not speak about general efficacy of relaxation trainings, but it is limited to the anxiety dimensions.

The meta-analytic findings parallel qualitative reviews revealing that relaxation training has potential for the treatment of anxiety in different populations. Further, this meta-analysis extends the existing literature through facilitation of a better understanding of the variability and clinical significance of anxiety improvement subsequent to relaxation.


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