University of Oulu

S.-M. Volanen, M. Lassander, N. Hankonen, P. Santalahti, M. Hintsanen, N. Simonsen, A. Raevuori, S. Mullola, T. Vahlberg, A. But, S. Suominen, Healthy learning mind – Effectiveness of a mindfulness program on mental health compared to a relaxation program and teaching as usual in schools: A cluster-randomised controlled trial, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 260, 2020, Pages 660-669, ISSN 0165-0327,

Healthy learning mind — effectiveness of a mindfulness program on mental health compared to a relaxation program and teaching as usual in schools : a cluster-randomised controlled trial

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Author: Volanen, S.-M.1,2; Lassander, M.3; Hankonen, N.4;
Organizations: 1Folkhälsan Research Center, Topeliuksenkatu 20, FI-00250 Helsinki, Finland
2Clinicum, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland
3Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki Finland
4Social Psychology Unit, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
5National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
6Unit of Psychology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
7Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
8Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
9Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland
10Department of Biostatistics, University of Turku, Finland
11Department of Public Health, University of Skövde, Sweden
12Department of Public Health, University of Turku, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-04-01


Background: Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) have shown promising effects on mental health among children and adolescents, but high-quality studies examining the topic are lacking. The present study assessed the effects of MBI on mental health in school-setting in an extensive randomised controlled trial.

Methods: Finnish school children and adolescents (N = 3519), aged 12–15 years (6th to 8th graders), from 56 schools were randomized into a 9 week MBI group, and control groups with a relaxation program or teaching as usual. The primary outcomes were resilience, socio-emotional functioning, and depressive symptoms at baseline, at completion of the programs at 9 weeks (T9), and at follow-up at 26 weeks (T26).

Results: Overall, mindfulness did not show more beneficial effects on the primary outcomes compared to the controls except for resilience for which a positive intervention effect was found at T9 in all participants (β=1.18, SE 0.57, p = 0.04) as compared to the relaxation group. In addition, in gender and grade related analyses, MBI lowered depressive symptoms in girls at T26 (β=−0.49, SE 0.21, p = 0.02) and improved socio-emotional functioning at T9 (β=−1.37, SE 0.69, p = 0.049) and at T26 (β=−1.71, SE 0.73, p = 0.02) among 7th graders as compared to relaxation.

Conclusions: A short 9-week MBI in school-setting provides slight benefits over a relaxation program and teaching as usual. Future research should investigate whether embedding regular mindfulness-based practice in curriculums could intensify the effects.

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Series: Journal of affective disorders
ISSN: 0165-0327
ISSN-E: 1573-2517
ISSN-L: 0165-0327
Volume: 260
Pages: 660 - 669
DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.08.087
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 515 Psychology
Funding: This project is funded by Signe and Ane Gyllenberg Foundation; Juho Vainio Foundation; Mats Brommels Foundation; Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation; Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. The study protocol has undergone peer-review by all the funding bodies.
Copyright information: © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (