Biopsychosocial Efficacy of Online Laughter Yoga in Higher Education Staff during COVID-19

  • Sheriden Morley

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Poor mental health in the UK is a prevalent and growing issue. Before COVID-19, poor mental health presented a national problem with statistics suggesting a growing trend. Across the
    workplace sectors, those within the higher education sector, among other professional sectors, indicated a high risk of developing symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. When the COVID-19 pandemic occurred, Universities and schools closed, and the UK population had to self-isolate at home. During this time, social isolation became a key contributing risk factor to poor mental health - for those in higher education, this further increased the risk.

    A systematic review exploring the effectiveness of online interventions within the workplace revealed potential for providing support and reducing symptoms associated with poor mental health. As online interventions do not breach COVID-19 violations (as they maintain social distancing) they may provide crucial support and treatment to those with poor mental health during the pandemic. In this research, the feasibility and efficacy of an online psychosocial based intervention known as Laughter Yoga was assessed for improving poor mental health in higher education staff at Coventry University. Laughter Yoga (LY) consists of combining deep breathing exercises, as found in pranayama yoga, and playful, childlike activities to trigger natural and spontaneous laughter. Findings from a systematic review, conducted as part of this research, indicates that LY presents
    psychological and physiological benefits associated with mental health.

    To assess the efficacy of online LY for higher education staff, a two-arm randomised-control trial of LY and a wait-list control was conducted with participants receiving 1x 45 minutes sessions of online LY for 4-weeks through the online platform Zoom. Psychological measures of depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia were measured by the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Subscale (DASS-21. Lovibond and Lovibond, 1995b) and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI. Morin, 1993) at baseline, mid-intervention, post-intervention and 4-week follow-up. Diurnal measures
    immediately after awakening, 30 minutes after awakening, midday and before bed) of salivary cortisol were also obtained at baseline, mid-intervention, post-intervention, 4-week follow-up and immediately before and after sessions one and four. Focus groups were also run following the completion of the study
    for those who took part in the LY sessions.

    Overall, findings suggest that LY is a feasible and accepted online psychosocial based intervention that higher education staff would engage with and enjoy. Self-reported symptoms of depression
    and anxiety were significantly different between the groups post-intervention (p = .022 and p = .041 respectively), however, small effect sizes were calculated (0.209 and 0.320 respectively). No
    statistical significance was found for stress or insomnia at post-intervention or follow-up. However, there was a statistical significance for anxiety symptoms at follow-up (p = .020) in addition to a medium effect-size (0.625). Cortisol outcomes revealed no statistically significant acute or chronic
    differences between wait-list control (WLC) and Laughter Yoga (LY). Despite this, significantly large effect sizes were found for awakening (-.845) and 30-minute after awakening (-.875) at follow-up between the groups. Discrepancies between statistical significances and effect sizes of the LY intervention on psychological and physiological measures, alongside research limitations, warrants further research.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorDerek Renshaw (Supervisor) & Laurence J Baldwin (Supervisor)

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