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Qigong Help Chronically Ill People to Cope With Anxiety and Discrimination

Oriental therapies can help chronically ill people stay strong and reduce stress levels during epidemics, according to research.//

Researchers have shown that people who practiced the Oriental art of Qigong – which combines gentle exercise with breathing techniques, meditation and visualisation – reaped considerable benefits during the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong.

It also helped them to cope with the stigmatisation and discrimination that developed against chronically ill people during the crisis, as they were seen as a high risk group with a much greater chance of being infected by, and dying from, the disease.

"We were already studying the health benefits of this very popular therapy when SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – hit Hong Kong" explains lead author Judy Yuen-man Siu, who carried out the research in the Department of Anthropology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Chronically ill people, like the ones in our study, were particularly at risk during the outbreak, which affected 1,755 people in Hong Kong and killed 299. Because our study had already been established, we were able to extend it to monitor how people harnessed Qigong, which was used by many Hong Kong people during the crisis."

The study looked at 98 people – mostly in their 40s to 50s - who had enrolled before the SARS outbreak and 70 who enrolled after the disease hit Hong Kong.

Three classes were observed for four months before the SARS crisis and for another four months during the outbreak.

All the participants – who were suffering from chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, musculo-skeletal problems, cancers and kidney disease – continued practising during the outbreak. None were infected.

As well as observing the study participants by immersing herself in the day-to-day life of the groups, Siu carried out in-depth interviews with 30 of them
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