Science has now confirmed what many practitioners of meditation have suggested for years: Meditation can help relieve anxiety and depression. A new meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that daily meditation for those experiencing anxiety and depression works as well at fighting these diseases as most prescription drugs.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined data from 47 previous studies involving more than 3,500 participants. They discovered that 30 minutes of meditation a day relieves symptoms of depression by up to 20 percent and anxiety by about 10 percent. "This is fairly comparable to what other studies have found for antidepressant drugs," says lead researcher Dr. Madhav Goyal.
These studies showed that meditation offers moderate relief for some but not all symptoms of psychological stress. The researchers found no measurable benefit for attention, sleep, eating habits, or substance abuse. Therefore, Goyal suggests meditation in addition to – not instead of – other therapies for anxiety and depression. "Meditation can be safely used in conjunction with other treatments, including medications," he says.
The best news coming out of the study, says Goyal, is that most of the participants benefit from meditation after not having practiced it for very long. "The amount of meditation training provided was small – two and a half hours per week over eight weeks – compared to more traditional courses," he says. "It was surprising to see that, with so little training, we still saw consistent effects. This begs the question of whether more training would yield even more benefits."