Thirty minutes of reiki per week for eight weeks significantly reduced levels of depression, anxiety and pain among older adults, according to recent research.

The study, “Effects of Reiki on Anxiety, Depression, Pain and Physiological Factors in Community-Dwelling Older Adults,” involved 20 subjects with a mean age of roughly 64 years, all of whom had received a medical diagnosis of pain, depression or anxiety.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the reiki intervention group or a control group. Those in the reiki group received one 30-minute reiki session with a reiki master once a week for eight weeks. Those in the control group were placed on a waiting list to receive reiki following the study.

Blood pressure, heart rate, pain levels, anxiety and depression were assessed in all the participants, at baseline and again at the end of the study period. In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with participants from the reiki group and the control group at the end of week eight.

A registered nurse measured blood pressure, heart rate and pain levels before and after each reiki session, for those subjects in the intervention group.

A reiki master and teacher customized the reiki sessions in response to the needs of each individual. These sessions consisted of traditional reiki hand placements, as well as other reiki techniques, including Nentatsu-ho, Byosen Reikian-ho and Reiji-ho.

Results of the research revealed significant decreases in depression, anxiety and pain among subjects in the reiki intervention group, as compared to those in the control group. No significant differences were found in blood pressure or heart rate.

In the interviews conducted with reiki participants, two main themes emerged in terms of health outcomes: relaxation and improved physical symptoms, mood and well-being.

“Quantitative measures indicated that the participants who received the reiki intervention significantly improved on measures of pain, depression and anxiety when compared with those who did not receive the intervention, a finding that was supported by the qualitative data,” state the study’s authors.

“Qualitative findings suggest reiki may have the potential to improve health outcomes,” they added, “and increase individuals’ coping resources—findings that warrant further study.”

Authors: Nancy E. Richeson, Judith A. Spross, Katherine Lutz and Cheng Peng.

Sources: College of Nursing and Health Professions, and Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Southern Maine, Portland, Maine. Originally published in Research in Gerontological Nursing (2010) 3(3): 187-198.