The development and evaluation of a programme for the effective management of stress in an impoverished rural community is the subject of this research study. A random sample of 160 participants was selected from the rural population of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. This population resembles in many ways other disadvantaged populations in South Africa, and the outcome may have generalizability. A quantitative, factorial experimental design was used to compare four stress management programmes. Three were conventional stress management programmes derived from the literature, and the fourth programme was a creative activity programme. Data was gathered from two questionnaires. Results from the statistical analyses of data revealed that the participants experienced significant reduction in stress in all four programmes. At post post-testing, participants in the three conventional programmes experienced a reduction of stress by 39.5, 72.5 and 40.8%, respectively. There was a 41.6% reduction in stress in participants in the creative activity programme. Limitations of the study include differences in the severity of certain psycho-social stressors experienced by the participants and difficulty in the control of a standardized presentation of the programmes. The most successful and sustainable stress management programme included physical methods of controlling stress such as exercise relaxation and good nutrition. Further research is recommended in combining a stress management programme with a creative activity group in reducing stress in a disadvantaged population. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.