Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Depression health centre

This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Mindfulness meditation 'could relieve depression'

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard

7th January 2014 – Mindfulness meditation programmes may help to reduce depression and anxiety in some people, a large study has found.

Researchers in the US say doctors should discuss the potential benefits of such programmes with their patients.

Mindfulness meditation is a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus an individual's attention on the benefits of living in the present moment.

As much relief as antidepressants

Lead author Dr Madhav Goyal, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says in a statement: "A lot of people use meditation, but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything. But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants."

To conduct their review, the investigators looked at evidence from 47 clinical trials involving a total of 3,515 participants that involved meditation and various mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain.

They found moderate evidence of improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain after participants underwent what was typically an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation.

However, there was minimal evidence that mindfulness meditation helped with stress or quality of life.

The researchers were able to confirm that none of the participants had been harmed by meditating. They also conclude that more research is warranted on the subject.

Eastern medicine

Meditation, Dr Goyal notes, has a long history in Eastern traditions, and it has been growing in popularity over the last 30 years in Western culture. "A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing," he says. "But that's not true.

Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways."

The research is published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

A 'robust analysis'

Commenting on the study in an emailed statement, Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, the mental health charity, says: "This robust meta-analysis highlights that mindfulness-type meditation could be a viable treatment option for people displaying symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. We welcome any research which looks at alternatives to prescription drugs, which are not always effective in treating symptoms and may cause adverse side effects.

"For the majority of people with mental health problems, a combination of treatments is most effective for managing their condition – this might include medication, but should also encompass talking therapies and alternative therapies such as arts therapies, ecotherapy [ psychotherapy in an outdoors setting] and/or meditation.

"We would like to see people being offered a wider range of treatment options, so they can access the support that is right for them."

Reviewed on January 07, 2014

Mind, body & soul newsletter

Look after your health
and wellbeing.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
man in mirror
How smoking affects your looks & life
boost your metabolism
Foods to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
man holding sore neck
Could you have a hormone imbalance?
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman holding mouth
Common mouth problems
couple makigh salad
Nutrition for over 50s
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
Allergy myths and facts
egg in cup
Surprising things that can harm your liver