Ecological momentary assessment and applied relaxation: Results of a randomized indicated preventive trial in individuals at increased risk for mental disorders

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Applied Relaxation (AR) is an established behavioral mental health intervention, but its efficacy in real life contexts remains unclear. Using randomized controlled trial data, we examined whether AR can effectively reduce mental health problems in daily life. A sample of 277 adults with increased psychopathological symptoms but without 12-month DSM-5 mental disorders at study entry was randomly assigned to an intervention group receiving AR training (n = 139) and an assessment-only control group (n = 138). Ecological momentary assessments were used to assess psychological outcomes in daily life over a period of seven days at baseline, post, and 12-month follow-up, respectively. Multilevel analyses indicated that all psychopathological symptoms decreased more in the intervention group than in the control group from baseline to post (range β = -0.31 for DASS-depression to β = -0.06 for PROMIS-anger). However, from post to follow-up, psychopathological symptoms decreased more in the control group than in the intervention group, so that only the intervention effects for PROMIS-depression (β = -0.10) and PROMIS-anger (β = -0.09) remained until follow-up. Moreover, positive affect (β = 0.19), internal control beliefs (β = 0.15), favorable coping (β = 0.60), and unfavorable coping (β = -0.41) improved more in the intervention group than in the control group, and these effects were mostly maintained in the long term. Some effects were stronger among women, older individuals, and individuals with higher initial symptoms. These findings suggest that AR can effectively reduce mental health problems in daily life. Trial registration. The trial has been registered at (NCT03311529).


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0286750
Number of pages17
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2023

External IDs

PubMed 37289760
Scopus 85161838551
ORCID /0000-0002-9687-5527/work/142235353


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

Sustainable Development Goals

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Different behavioral-methods, Exposure in-vivo, Stress-management, Response patterns, Cognitive therapy, Follow-up, Anxiety, Adults, Prevalence, Depression, Adult, Humans, Female, Ecological Momentary Assessment, Mental Disorders/prevention & control, Mental Health, Behavior Therapy, Anger