Adolescents who participated in a mindfulness program at school reported reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress up to six months later. Furthermore, these teen students were less likely to develop more severe symptoms of depression.
The research was conducted by Dr. Filip Raes, professor in the Department of Psychology and Educational Sciences at KU Leuven in Belgium.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation focused on being attentive to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way.
Depression is often rooted in a downward spiral of negative thoughts and feelings. When a person is able to recognize these harmful feelings and thoughts as they happen, he or she can intervene before depression sinks in.
Although mindfulness has already been widely tested and applied in patients with depression, this is the first study to look at a large group of adolescents in a school-based setting, using a randomized controlled design.
The study was conducted at five middle schools in Flanders, Belgium, and included about 400 students between the ages of 13 and 20. The students were randomly assigned to either a test group or a control group.
Adolescents in the test group received mindfulness training, and those in the control group received no training.
Before the study, all the participants filled out a questionnaire regarding their experience with feelings of depression, stress or anxiety. Both groups completed the questionnaire again immediately after the training, and then a final time six months later.
Before the training began, both the test group (21 percent) and the control group (24 percent) had a similar percentage of students reporting symptoms of depression.
After the mindfulness training, that number had significantly dropped in the test group: 15 percent versus 27 percent in the control group.
This difference still held strong six months after the training: 16 percent of the test group versus 31 percent of the control group reported symptoms of depression.
The findings suggest that mindfulness meditation can lead to a decrease in symptoms of depression and that it protects against the later development of depression.
Source: KU Leuven