Debbie Nicholson

Swedish researchers find dance interventions turn negative problems into positive ones

Dance therapy/intervention is the psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance for emotional, cognitive, social behaviors and physical conditions. It is based on the belief that there is a direct relationship between movement and emotion. Dance therapy is helpful to teens with problems that include anxiety, depression and poor self-esteem.

View slideshow: Types of Dance

In this new study researchers examine whether dance intervention can influence self-rated health for adolescent girls with internalizing problems such as stress and depression according to the study’s objective. Researchers wrote “dance and provide” a supportive environment and an opportunity to enhance low body attitudes and physical self-perceptions”.

Ann Duberg, R.P.T., of the Centre for Health Care Sciences, Örebro County Council and Örebro University, Sweden, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled intervention trial in which measured self-rated health changes of 112 Swedish girls aged 13 to 18 years with internalizing problems such as stress who had visited the school nurse numerous times for psychosomatic symptoms that included headaches, back or shoulder pain and stomach pain.

For the study the girls at random were assigned to either the intervention group (59) or the control group (53). The intervention group had dance classes that lasted 75 minutes each at two times a week for eight months. The classes concentrated on the joy of movement and not dance performance. Self-rated health (SRH) was the primary outcome measure and secondary measures were adherence to and experience of the intervention.

Researchers interviewed the girls at baseline, eight months, twelve months and twenty months, on self-reported health, emotional distress, psychosomatic symptoms, negative affect, depression, sleep, school, interests, and enjoyment of dance, as well as adherence to and experience with the dance intervention in the study group.

The results showed that the dance intervention group improved their self-rated health more than the control group at follow-ups. The results remained after four and eight months after the intervention had ended.

The dance intervention group saw reductions in self-reported at eight and twelve month follow-up in comparison to the control group. Also, the results revealed 91% of the girls rated the dance intervention as a positive experience.

In their conclusion the authors had written “An 8-month dance intervention can improve self-rated health for adolescent girls with internalizing problems. The improvement remained a year after the intervention.” Dance can result in high adherence and a positive experience for the participants, which might contribute to sustained new healthy habits.”

This study appears in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine