Mediation programs may help reduce anxiety, depression and pain in some patients, but may not lead to a boost in positive feelings or overall health, according to a new review study.
The review analyzed information from 47 previously published studies with a total of 3,515 participants. Each study included a group that participated in meditation (usually for a few weeks or months), as well as a control group that participated in another activity that required similar time and effort, such as learning about nutrition or performing another type of exercise.
Most participants had a mental health condition (such as anxiety or depression) or a physical health condition (such as lower back pain or heart disease.) [Mind Games: 7 Reasons You Should Meditate]
Participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for about eight weeks to six months showed small but meaningful reductions in anxiety, depression and pain. Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation in which people learn to pay attention to what they are feeling physically and mentally from moment to moment.
Most of the improvements in pain occurred among participants who had visceral pain (pain in internal organs). Meditation programs were not more effective than exercise or cognitive-behavioral group therapy at reducing anxiety, depression and pain, the review said.
In addition, the researchers found little to no evidence that meditation affected positive mood, attention, sleep, weight or overall health. Researchers also found little evidence that meditation reduced stress.
Nine of the studies looked at whether meditation could be harmful, finding no evidence of harm.
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