Meditation Can Offer Benefits for Depression, Anxiety, and Pain

A review of the published scientific literature on relaxation programs involving meditation has revealed a small benefit to individuals with a medical condition, including effects against depression similar in size to those achieved with antidepressant drugs. The systematic review is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study investigators examined the results of 47 randomized clinical trials involving over 3,500 participants and discovered evidence that indicates that mindfulness meditation programs offered small improvements to depression, anxiety, and pain.

The mindfulness-based stress-lowering programs examined in the studies typically offered close to 20 to 30 hours of training over the span of 8 weeks. These studies emphasized “training in present-focused awareness or mindfulness” and the benefit was not seen amongst the other types of relaxation offered in course of mantra and transcendental meditation.

The review authors claim that the benefits from mindfulness meditation have a role to play in healthcare. They claim, “Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress.”

The positive response to depression was similar to that achieved by antidepressants. The investigators claim that that the size of the effect through meditation was up to 52% greater when compared to the controls. Additionally, the size of the effect was up to 44% greater versus controls compared to anxiety, and up to 31% against pain.

The authors describe meditation as a skill or state that is learned and practiced over time. Its goal is to gain, through elevated awareness, an “insight and understanding into the various subtleties of one’s existence.