New study aims to unlock the secrets of effective stress management

Feb 1 2024

Researchers at Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle are hoping to better understand which stress management techniques and tools actually work, and who they’re working for.

In a new long-term citizen science project dubbed FOCUS-R (Focus on Understanding Stress, Resilience and the Capacity to Adapt), the study aims to find out what internal and external resources people are using to manage stress, and what impact those resources are having on their ability to cope.

Participants in the study will be asked to fill out a fortnightly survey that asks them about their experiences of stress in the past two weeks, and what they have done to manage it.

Public health researcher Dr Madeleine Hinwood says, “Gathering perspectives from a broad cross-section of the Australian population will allow us to identify effective stress management strategies, as well as identifying social and systems-level barriers to achieving adaptability or resilience.”

The outcome of the research will be to identify which stress management techniques work best for which type of people, and also to figure out who is at the highest risk of cumulative stress. The research aims to match people with the stress management resources that have been found to be most effective for them.

“We know that stress causes and contributes to a whole range of health issues, but we don’t yet know how best to prevent and manage stress. What we’re hoping to do is find out what actually works for people, by asking them regularly to tell us what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Past research into things like mindfulness has variable results- it's great for some people, but not all people. By asking the community directly to tell us what is causing them stress, what they’re doing about it and whether it’s working, helps us to build a data-backed profile that we can then use to develop more effective interventions for stress management.

“Terms like ‘resilience’ are spoken about frequently, but often place a burden on individuals to be more resilient. We want more detailed information about all of the nitty gritty of what helps people manage stress, particularly people experiencing the same or similar stressors, without simply splitting them into groups of resilient or not resilient,” says Dr Hinwood. 

To start with, the FOCUS-R study is hoping to recruit 1000 people nationwide. The study will run for three years.

Study participants will receive feedback and information on the best stress management techniques for them as the study progresses.

To participate in the FOCUS-R study, click here.