Client Handout: The Benefits of Massage for Mental Health

New research on the benefits of massage for mental health.

 August 1, 2022

Studies show that massage can be an effective and inexpensive way to help improve mental health.

Integrating Massage Therapy Into the Health Care of Female Veterans

The study. Researchers exploring possible strategies to increase well-being in female veterans, who experience higher rates of chronic pain, depression and anxiety than male veterans, looked at the effect massage therapy may have around reducing the pain and anxiety during gynecological examinations and procedures.

A pre- and post-visit study design was used. Female veterans were asked by clinic staff if they would like a relaxation massage in conjunction with their visit in advance of their appointment. Study participants received effleurage massage from a licensed volunteer massage therapist in a private space. Massage was performed on the participant’s back, neck, hands, arms, legs and feet.

Participants rated their pain intensity, pain unpleasantness, anxiety, shortness of breath, relaxation and inner peace both pre- and post-massage on 0 to 10 scales.

The results. Results are based on the first massage received by 96 study participants. A majority of participants were over 40 years old and most (70 percent) were scheduled for an invasive procedure. More than three-quarters of participants (79 percent) had a history of chronic pain, and 65 percent had a diagnosis of depression.

Mean scores for pain intensity decreased by 1.9 points, pain unpleasantness by 2 points and anxiety decreased by 2.4 points. Relaxation increased by 4.3 points and a sense of inner peace increased by 3.5 points, all statistically significant changes.

“Results from this pilot study suggest massage therapy may be an effective, inexpensive and safe treatment for pain and/or anxiety in female veterans attending a gynecology appointment,” researchers noted. “Further research would assess the effects of massage therapy in female veterans with chronic pain and coexistent mental health conditions.” 

Sports Massage, College Students and the Benefits of Massage Therapy for Mental Health

Researchers asked this question: Would massage therapy after intermittent exercise improve the physical and mental health of college students?

The study. This experimental study used a mixed research method to analyze the current status of sports performance and body composition of volunteer participants who agreed to answer a questionnaire designed to assess physical and mental health.

Data were analyzed using SPSS 26.0 software for statistical analysis, including t-test and ANOVA. Participants were interviewed about the results, and results were explored by multivariate analysis.

The results. Study results showed that exercise was helpful in improving physical and mental health. When combined with sports massage, the benefits of intermittent exercise were further enhanced, including sports-specific performance, like sit-ups and standing long jump, as well as physiological markers like blood pressure and BMI. Researchers also found that self-confidence increased and suicidal tendencies decreased within the intermittent exercise and sports massage group.


1. Mitchinson A, Fletcher C, Trumble E. “Integrating massage therapy into the health care of female veterans.” Fed Pract. 2022 Feb;39(2):86—92.

2. Shen CC, Tseng Y, Shen MC, Lin HH. “Effects of sports massage on physiological and mental health of college students participating in a 7-week intermittent exercises program.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May10;18(9):5013.