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Bormann JE, Aschbacher K, Wetherell JL, Roesch S, Redwine L. Effects of faith/assurance on cortisol levels are enhanced by a spiritual mantram intervention in adults with HIV: a randomized trial. Journal of psychosomatic research. 2009 Feb 1; 66(2):161-71.
OBJECTIVES: Previous research among HIV-infected individuals suggests that spiritual well-being is inversely related to psychological distress and rates of disease progression. Use of a mantram, a spiritual word or phrase repeated frequently and silently throughout the day, has been associated with decreased psychological distress and increased spiritual well-being. This study compared the effects of 2 interventions-a spiritually-based mantram intervention versus an attention-matched control group-on faith/assurance and average salivary cortisol levels among HIV-infected individuals. METHODS: Using a randomized design, HIV-infected adults were assigned to the intervention (n = 36) or control condition (n = 35). Faith scores and saliva (collected at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 4 p.m., and 9 p.m.) were assessed at preintervention, postintervention, and 5-week follow-up. Path analyses tested competing models that specify both concurrent and sequential relationships between faith and average daily cortisol levels while comparing groups. RESULTS: Faith levels increased among mantram participants from pre- to postintervention. Greater faith at preintervention was significantly associated with lower average cortisol at postintervention in the mantram group but not in the controls. The associations between faith at postintervention and cortisol levels at 5-week follow-up were significant among both groups but weaker than the pre- to postintervention association identified in the mantram group. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest the presence of lagged or antecedent consequent relationships between faith and cortisol, which may be enhanced by mantram use. Decreased cortisol could potentially benefit immune functioning among HIV-infected individuals.