Mindfulness meditation programs may help reduce anxiety, depression and pain in some individuals, according to a review of medical literature by Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H., of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues.
Many people meditate to cope with stress and promote good health. To counsel patients, clinicians need to know more about meditation programs and how they might affect health outcomes, according to the study background.
The review by researchers included 47 randomized clinical trials with 3,515 participants. Study findings indicate moderate evidence in the medical literature that mindfulness meditation programs show small improvements in anxiety, depression and pain. For example, the effect size for the effect on depression was 0.3, which is what would be expected with the use of an anti-depressant.
There was low evidence of small improvements in stress/distress and the mental health component of health-related quality of life. Researchers also found little or no evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep and weight. There was no evidence of harms of meditation programs, although few trials reported on harms.
"Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress. Stronger study designs are needed to determine the effects of meditation programs in improving the positive dimensions of mental health and stress-related behavior," the study concludes.