November 1, 2003
This study investigated the impact of HeartMath's Power to Change Performance stress and health risk reduction program on physiological and psychological stress and health risk factors in a sample of correctional peace officers. Eighty-eight officers from three facilities were randomized to an experimental group and a wait-list control group. The experimental group participated in the stress and health risk reduction program, which was delivered over two consecutive days. The program included instruction on health risk factors as well as training in positive emotion-focused stress reduction techniques intended to reduce negative emotional arousal, improve physiological balance, increase positive affect, and enhance performance. Learning and practice of the techniques was enhanced by heart rate variability feedback, which helped participants learn to self-generate physiological coherence, a beneficial mode associated with increased efficiency and synchronization in the functioning of physiological systems. Measures of physiological and psychological stress and health risk were assessed before the program and again 3 months afterward. The measures included in the health risk assessment were the Personal Wellness Profile self-report survey, which assesses a broad range of health-related information, behaviors, and attitudes; and four biometric markers: height, weight, blood pressure, and total cholesterol levels. Additional measures reflective of physiological stress and overall health included cortisol and DHEA, secretory immunoglobulin A (an immune system marker), HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting glucose levels, a 10-minute resting electrocardiogram, and measures of heart rate variability (an indicator of autonomic function). Three self-report psychological surveys were also included to assess emotional stress and work-related variables.