In a 10-week program, health and physical education teachers taught anger and stress management to 86 high school freshmen. Researchers observed that the program reduced blood pressure as well as helped students control their anger.
The 10-week program was taught in 50 minute sessions at two high schools in Augusta, Georgia, between 2005 and 2006. The program, which was introduced easily in a school day, was associated with enhancing decision making and coping skills for adolescents in any setting.
High blood pressure has becoming increasingly prevalent among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of adults are hypertensive and five percent of children exhibit signs of high blood pressure.
Dr. Redford B. Williams and Virginia P. Williams, founders of Williams LifeSkills Inc., and colleagues created the 10 skills used in the William LifeSkills workshops. From the workshops, adolescents learned how to be assertive without being hostile, make decisions regarding negative thoughts and increase positive interactions. Many of the workshops included real-life experiences they shared with classmates. Students' blood pressure was measured and they received pre-and post-testing to assess levels of anger and anxiety.
Thirty percent of adolescents, who had higher blood pressure prior to the workshops, demonstrated a two point decrease after the 10-week program.
"We believe we have an effective method that any school could use to help curtail violence and keep adolescents out of trouble with an improved mental state that benefits their physical well-being," said Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, physiologist at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Health Sciences University.
According to Dr. Barnes, the smallest downward shift in blood pressure in young people can significantly reduce the risk of hypertension, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve long term public health. The benefits were exhibited for six months.
Researchers note further information is needed to measure the program's impact among hypertensive school children.