Harmer, Wesley (2022) Investigating the impact of a non-pharmaceutical online intervention on anxiety and subsequent working memory function. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.
Abstract

Anxiety disorders are on the rise, with a great deal of research exploring the factors and consequences of this. However, less focus has been given to the prevalence of subclinical anxiety and its effects on cognition with the rise coinciding with clinical anxiety. Furthermore, treatment has become more digitised with a lack of research vetting the effectiveness of this. This study sought to explore the effects of an online-based progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) on anxiety levels in a sample of participants with subclinical anxiety. In addition to this, changes in anxiety were correlated with changes in working memory performance, measured using a Reverse Corsi Block Task (RCBT). A diverse sample of 162 participants was collected and pseudo-randomly allocated into two groups, the PMR experimental group (n = 97) and the control group (n = 65). In a four-week study, participants within the experimental group were asked to complete the PMR exercise three times a week whilst the control was inactive. Data was collected regarding anxiety levels at the beginning of the study and every two weeks subsequently using the GAD-7. The RCBT was used to collected working memory data across the same timepoints. The findings show that there was a significant decrease in reported anxiety levels for those in the experimental group compared to those in the control group, whereas due to conflicting correlations, no significant correlation could be established between the levels of anxiety and working memory. This shows that there is potential for online PMR to be effective, however further research is required. Attrition rates were measured and the implications for the attrition on the results and the effectiveness of online-based PMR was discussed.

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