Today the figures for teenage girls (aged 13 to 18) who are feeling unwell are alarmingly high. Researcher Anna Duberg at the University Healthcare Research Centre, Region Örebro County in Sweden,has in her dissertation looked into the effects and experiences of the adolescent girls participating in an eight month long dance intervention. The dance was shown to function as an oasis from everyday stress for the participating Girls.
The figures for girls withinternalizing problems has not been as high since the Public Health Agency of Sweden started to measure school aged children’s health in the 1980’s. Girls put more pressure on themselves compared to boys, both from a schools point of view and also from within themselves. Anna Duberg, a registered Physiotherapist at the Psychiatric Centre for Children and Young Adults at the University hospital in Örebroand a Doctoral student at the School of Health Sciences at University of Örebro says the girls worry about everything from succeeding in life in general, to how they look, the way they come across in social media and also worrying about their studies.
Dance twice per week
The girls who took part in the study frequently visited their school health services for recurring problems with headache, stomach ache, worrying, sadness, anxiety and stress. The study, “The Dance Project” looked into if dance twice per week during two terms could influence the girls’ wellbeing. The participating girls got interviewed about their experiences and answered a questionnaire about their health and habits.
The dance classes took place after school hours and approximately 20 girls participated in each group. Some of the dance themes they tried were African rhythmic dance, Show jazz and also Street dance. The main aim was to lift the girls own resources through encouraging joy of movement, to offer an opportunity to enjoy the body and moment in a positive way instead of rehearsing for an end of term show. The main ground rules were a relaxed and demand less atmosphere, togetherness, creativity and group decision making. A non-judgemental atmosphere and supportive togetherness were shown to be important for participation.
The result of the study
Apart from the physiological effects, physical activity can be an active strategy to strengthen self-esteem. It is important that the activity is carried out regularly in order to gain health effects, therefore the activity should be in line with the individuals’ interest so that they can feel commitment and joy. It should be fun. Dance is an example that has proved to be popular as a physical activity in a social environment, particularly among girls. The result from this study showed it had a positive effect on both the physical and emotional health for those that took part.
The intervention was considered to be cost-effective due to decreased number of school nurse visits and an increase in quality of life. The attendance rate for the dance group was throughout high and approximately 92% thought of the dancing as a positive experience. The result for those taking part showed that they felt their general well-being was significantly higher compared to a control group who did not take part in the dance group. Ailments such as headache, stomach ache, worrying, sadness, anxiety, stress and even use of pain reducing medicine was shown to be reduced for those participating in the dance group. The school nurses felt a reduction in their workload as soon as the project had started.
Twenty one different schools took part in the study and we received good support from the school nurses in the recruitment process.
An interesting aspect was that the non-judgemental atmosphere and the supportive togetherness were shown to be particularly important for the girls and that the dance was seen as a relief from stress and demands. Movements and music is a break from negative thoughts of patterns since it transfers the focus from your thoughts to an embodied experience.
The body should be a source of joy. Today there is a lot of focus on the outside perspective on the body, which is shown to increase anxiety and illness. Teenage girls need to learn how to experience their body from an inside perspective instead. Dance and movement could help to shift this focus. This can help improve health and positive active self-care including sustained physical activity habits.
Anna Duberg is hoping that dance will help broaden the range of health promoting interventions in school health services and even become an alternative way of treating teenage girls with internalizing problems in healthcare. Anna has already educated 60 new instructors with new groups being set up throughout Sweden. Norway, Greece and United Kingdom have also shown an interest in this project.
The title of the dissertation:"Dance Intervention for Adolescent Girls with Internalizing Problems. Effects and Experiences."
Opponent: Professor emeritus Töres Theorell, Stress Research Institute
Supervisor: Professor, RPT Margareta Möller
Assistant Supervisors: Ph.D., Health economist, Lars Hagberg & Ph.D., R.N. Helena Sunvisson
For further information please contact
Ph.D., RPT Anna Duberg,
University Healthcare Research Center, Region Örebro County, Sweden and Psychiatric Centre for Children and Young Adults at the University hospital in Örebro, Sweden Mobile telephone number: +46 70 550 93 24
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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