Teenage Girls Dance Their Way To Better Mental Health


(CORDIS) — Depression, stress, fatigue and even headaches suffered by young girls can be alleviated through regular dance, according to a study that monitored 112 Swedish girls from the ages of 13 to 19.

The study, titled ‘Influencing Self-rated health among adolescent girls with dance intervention’ was run by physical therapist, Anna Duberg from Örebro University Hospital, who is also a doctoral candidate at Örebro University in Sweden.

The objective was to investigate whether dance intervention influenced self-rated health (SRH) for adolescent girls with problems like stress and psychosomatic symptoms. On many occasions, the girls had sought medical advice from the school nurse regarding symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, and back, neck, and shoulder pain.

In the study, 59 of the girls were randomised to a group that regularly danced together 2 days a week, compared with 53 girls in a controlled group where the girls did not change their living habits.

The intervention comprised dance classes twice weekly during an 8-month period, with each dance class lasting 75 minutes – and the focus centred on the joy of movement, rather than on performance.

The key finding from the study was that the girls participating in the dance intervention improved their SRH more than those in the controlled group. The results also show high adherence and a positive experience, which suggests that an intervention with dance can be suitable for adolescent girls internalising problems.

In concluding the results of the study, regular dance training was considered a strategy for preventing and treating low spirits and depression. Dancing was also found to bring enhanced self-esteem and a greater capacity to deal with everyday problems, compared with the control group. The positive effect was seen eight months after the dance training had ended. In all, 91 per cent of the girls in the dance group felt that the dance study had been a positive experience.

Commenting on the study, Dr Anna Duberg from Örebro University Hospital says: ‘According to these results, despite problems such as stress and psychosomatic symptoms (and other potential challenges in being an adolescent girl), dance can result in high adherence and a positive experience for the participants, which might contribute to sustained new healthy habits. In the long run, this may lead to a more healthful lifestyle.’

The benefits of dance have been the subject of a number of research studies in the past. Dance is often seen as a way for developing many of the attributes of a growing child. On the physical side, it can increase flexibility, range of motion, physical strength and stamina. The repetitive movements in dance can also improve muscle tone, correct poor posture, increase balance, coordination and overall cardiovascular health.

Mentally, dance can bring about an improvement in self-esteem, and social and communication skills, while also developing confidence and alleviating fears related to performing in front of an audience. Children tend to move naturally and learn movement patterns as readily as they learn a language. Dance can be seen as powerful form of expression from a very young age.

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