Meditation may be as effective as drug therapy for people with mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to a comprehensive review of studies that together included 3,515 participants. The review was published in JAMA Internal Medicine (2013; doi: 10.1001/jamaintern med.2013.13018).
“A lot of people use meditation, but it’s not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything,” said lead study author Madhav Goyal, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a Johns Hopkins Medicine news release. “But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.”
Investigators conducted the systematic review of studies in order to determine the effectiveness of meditation programs in improving anxiety, depression and other stress-related conditions, like poor eating habits, among diverse adults. The review included 47 randomized clinical trials that looked at meditation and a variety of mental and physical health issues.
Data analysis showed moderate evidence that a typical 8-week program of mindfulness meditation can improve anxiety, depression and pain. Mindful meditation emphasizes acceptance of thoughts and feelings without judgment. Investigators found low evidence of improvement in stress and quality of life. Insufficient evidence was available to draw conclusions on other issues. Researchers found no indication of harm resulting from meditation.