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Better Research Needed on Meditation

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While a new report fails to find compelling evidence that meditation has therapeutic value, this does not necessarily mean that the practice does not impart value or that the practice is harmful.

What the report does point out is the void in research based on evidence for alternative medical therapies – a deficit that in fact, also exists in many realms of health care including psychosocial, medical and rehabilitative therapies.

“There is an enormous amount of interest in using meditation as a form of therapy to cope with a variety of modern-day health problems, especially hypertension, stress and chronic pain, but the majority of evidence that seems to support this notion is anecdotal, or it comes from poor quality studies,” say Maria Ospina and Kenneth Bond, researchers at the University of Alberta/Capital Health Evidence-based Practice Center in Edmonton, Canada.

In compiling their report, Ospina, Bond and their fellow researchers analyzed a mountain of medical and psychological literature—813 studies in all—looking at the impact of meditation on conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and substance abuse.

They found some evidence that certain types of meditation reduce blood pressure and stress in clinical populations. Among healthy individuals, practices such as Yoga seemed to increase verbal creativity and reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol.

However, Ospina says no firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in health care can be drawn based on the available evidence because the existing scientific research is characterized by poor methodological quality and does not appear to have a common theoretical perspective.

“Future research on meditation practices must be more rigorous in the design and execution of studies and in the analysis and reporting of results,” Ospina explains.

But the researchers caution against dismissing the therapeutic value of meditation outright. “This report’s conclusions shouldn’t be taken as a sign that meditation doesn’t work,” Bond says.

“Many uncertainties surround the practice of meditation. For medical practitioners who are seeking to make evidence-based decisions regarding the therapeutic value of meditation, the report shows that the evidence is inconclusive regarding its effectiveness.”

For the general public, adds Ospina, “this research highlights that choosing to practice a particular meditation technique continues to rely solely on individual experiences and personal preferences, until more conclusive scientific evidence is produced.”

The report, published June 2007 and titled Meditation Practices for Health: State of the Research, identified five broad categories of meditation practices: mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.

Transcendental Meditation and relaxation response (both of which are forms of mantra meditation) were the most commonly studied types of meditation. Studies involving Yoga and mindfulness meditation were also common.

The research was conducted by the University of Alberta Evidence-based Practice Center under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It was requested and funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Bethesda, Md.

Source: University of Alberta

Better Research Needed on Meditation

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Better Research Needed on Meditation. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2007/07/09/better-research-needed-on-meditation/977.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.