Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Ashli Owen-Smith, PhD, MS

Second Advisor

Claire Spears, PhD

Third Advisor

Daniel Whitaker, PhD


Mind Over Matter: Evaluation of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for College Students


Jim Kasper

Background: While there is increasing evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness practice to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress, and elevate self-compassion and awareness, the impact of brief mindfulness programs on these domains among urban, college-aged populations has not been explored fully. The current study aims to explore the impact of a brief mindfulness program upon student experiences of both positive and negative thoughts and emotions.

Methods: A mixed-methods study was designed to evaluate the impact of a 6-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course on psychosocial outcomes among a cohort of Georgia State University students . A total of 44 students participated in the program, with 22 following through until program completion. Quantitative data were collected from these 22 participants via pre- and post- questionnaires. The measures used were: The Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale 21-item (DASS21), the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), and the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS). Qualitative data were sourced from 6 one-on-one in-depth interviews. Statistical analyses (paired sample t-tests) were conducted using SPSS. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic content analysis.

Results: A cohort (n = 22) utilizing a 6-week MBSR course showed statistically significant decreases in depression [t(19) = 2.21, p = 0.04, d = 0.53] and stress [t(21) = 2.45, p = 0.02, d = 0.47], and marginal decreases in anxiety [t(21) = 1.89, p = 0.07, d = 0.35] on the DASS 21. Paired t-tests revealed significant improvements in trait/dispositional mindfulness according to the MAAS [t(20) = 2.66, p = 0.015, d = 0.45], and significant improvements in self-compassion, according to the SCS [t(20) = 3.83, p = 0.001, d = 0.54]. Positive and negative affect showed no significant changes. Qualitative results showed that perceived impact of the course was strong, and acceptability and efficacy were high.

Discussion: Results from this study suggest that college students who engage in even brief, introductory mindfulness programs may notice improvements in a number of areas, including decreases in stress, anxiety, and depression, and increases in self-compassion, and mindful awareness. Colleges and universities might benefit from instituting brief MBSR programs into their curricula or incorporating these within their counseling services. Future research is needed to better understand the most effective form such programs should take.