Virtual Reality (VR) is not a new technology, and has over two decades of research supporting its high clinical efficacy. It is a powerful tool for the treatment of mental health & behavioural issues.
Studies have shown that Virtual Reality can evoke the same reactions, thoughts and emotions as experiences in a real-world situation. i.e. visiting a virtual beach can make you feel the same way as you would on a real beach!
Numerous studies have shown that Virtual Reality based treatments are more efficient and more effective at reducing stress and anxiety than some traditional techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
A research study was conducted at the KK Women's and Children's hospital, Singapore on 108 female patients undergoing minor gynaecological surgery, to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of using Relax VR in reducing their pre-operative anxiety levels.
The study found that using Relax VR before a surgery reduced levels of:
• Depression, and
• Pain / Discomfort
This is one of the first works in evaluating the effects of VR during the pre-operative period in a real clinical scenario.
A pilot study was conducted at the surgical or trauma Intensive Care Units (ICU) at University of Florida Health on 59 not intubated adult patients, to assess the feasibility of using Relax VR to help patients to better manage stress and discomfort in an ICU.
The main results of the study showed:
• Reduced levels of anxiety and depression
• Patients considered Relax VR comfortable, enjoyable, and helped them better manage their pain
The study showed that Relax VR can be easily implemented in an ICU and is well-received by the participants.
A study was conducted at the Military Institute of Medicine (Warsaw, Poland) on 65 adult patients to assess the efficacy of Relax VR in patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation in a hospital.
The results showed reductions in the levels of anxiety-state in the group that used Relax VR, as opposed to the control group (where the levels of anxiety remained stable).
Those findings show the efficacy and viability of using Relax VR as a method to reduce the negative emotions in cardiac patients.
A recent study conducted at The Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK and at the Marie Curie Hospice Liverpool, UK explored the viability of using VR in hospital palliative care and hospice settings. A group of 12 patients and 3 caregivers used one of the 5 minute guided-relaxation meditations in Relax VR. Seven staff members also completed a brief survey to evaluate their perspectives on the use of VR in clinical scenarios.
Results showed that:
• The use of VR was well-received by patients, caregivers, and staff
• All the participants wanted to use Relax VR again
• It is feasible to integrate VR technologies in hospital and hospice settings
• The participants didn’t experience side effects or major complications.
The Psychology Department of the Universitat de Vic - Universitat Central de Catalunya, Spain used Relax VR in a pilot study with 30 participants which examined the efficacy of VR in inducing relaxation and positive emotions in a non clinical sample.
The study found that Relax VR was able to:
• Significantly reduce the levels of anxiety and negative emotions on the participants.
• Promote a positive mood in the participants
• The use of VR for relaxation represents a promising approach as a stress management tool.
The use of relaxation techniques such as those used in Relax VR have been shown to have a number of benefits:
• Increased quality of life and emotional well-being (Varvogli & Christina Darviri, 2011)
• Reduced anxiety, stress, fatigue and/or depression (Chen, Huang, Chien & Cheng, 2017; Klanin-Yobas, Oo, Suzanne-Yew & Law, 2015, Kwekkeboom & Bratzke, 2016, Nooner, Dwyer, DeShea & Yeo, 2016; Zhou et al., 2015)
• Highly recommended for individuals with insomnia (Jerath, Beveridge & Barnes, 2019, Lan et al., 2002)
• Enhanced performance and recovery in athletes (Kellmann, Pelka & Beckmann, 2018; Parnabas, Mahamood, Parnabas & Meera-Abdullah, 2014))
• Positive effects during pregnancy (Fink, Urech, Caveti & Adler, 2012; Urech, Fink, Hoesli, Wilhelm, Bitzer & Adler, 2014, Yeager, 2019)
Virtual reality has been shown to have a number of benefits, including:
• Reduced levels of stress and inducing positive emotions when natural scenarios are used (Anderson et al., 2017, Annerstedt et al., 2013; Liszio et al., 2018; Tanja-Dijkstra et al., 2014; Tanja-Dijkstra et al., 2018)
• Enhancing and supporting the practice of relaxation and meditation techniques when natural scenes are used (Fusco, Di Nunzio & Moccia, 2018;Freeman, Lessiter, Keogh, Bond & Chapman, 2004; Preziosa, Villani, Mantovani & Riva, 2005, Riva, Gorini & Gaggioli, 2009; Repetto et al., 2009)
• Treating anxiety-related disorders (Carl et al., 2019; Meyerbröker & Emmelkamp, 2010; Opris, Pintea, García-Palacios, Botella & Szamosköki, 2012; Parsons & Rizzo, 2008; Powers & Emmelkamp, 2008)