Feasibility, Acceptability, and Preliminary Efficacy of an App-Based Meditation Intervention to Decrease Firefighter Psychological Distress and Burnout: A One-Group Pilot Study

Thaddeus W.W. Pace, Katharine H. Zeiders, Stephanie H. Cook, Evelyn D. Sarsar, Lindsay T. Hoyt, Nicholas L. Mirin, Erica P. Wood, Raquel Tatar, Richard J. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Firefighters are often exposed to occupational stressors that can result in psychological distress (ie, anxiety and depression) and burnout. These occupational stressors have only intensified with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and will likely persist in the postpandemic world. Objective: To address occupational stressors confronting firefighters, we pilot tested a novel, cost-effective, smartphone app–based meditation intervention created by Healthy Minds Innovations that focused on mindfulness (awareness) training along with practices designed to cultivate positive relationships (connection), insight into the nature of the self (insight), and a sense of purpose in the context of challenge (purpose) with a sample of professional firefighters from a large metropolitan area in southwestern United States. Methods: A total of 35 participants were recruited from a closed online group listserv and completed the self-guided 10-unit meditation app over the course of 10 days, at 1 unit per day. We assessed anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms, burnout, and negative affect as well as saliva diurnal cortisol rhythm, an objective indicator of stress-related biology, before and after use of the meditation app. Results: This study demonstrated the meditation app was both feasible and acceptable for use by the majority of firefighters. We also found significant reductions in firefighters’ anxiety (P=.01), burnout (P=.05), and negative affect (P=.04), as well as changes in cortisol diurnal rhythm, such as waking cortisol (P=.02), from before to after use of the meditation app. Conclusions: Our study findings call for future research to demonstrate the efficacy of this meditation app to reduce psychological distress and burnout in firefighters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere34951
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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