Meditation May Reduce Mild Depression, Anxiety
But effect appears small to moderate, researchers add
Evidence was also moderately strong that meditation programs may reduce pain. "There weren't as many trials evaluating chronic pain, and so we don't understand what kinds of pain this type of meditation may be most useful for," Goyal added.
Still, for all its promise, meditation isn't a cure-all. There was little or no evidence of any benefit on positive mood, attention, substance abuse, eating habits, sleep and weight, the researchers say.
On the plus side, Goyal pointed out no harmful side effects were associated with meditating, and you can practice meditation along with other treatments you're receiving.
"In the context of Eastern traditions, the meditation programs that were tested were comparatively short, lasting about eight weeks, and provided relatively small doses of meditation training," Goyal said. "So, we don't know if more meditation practice would result in larger benefits, and this needs to be tested in future research"
Another expert agreed.
"It appears that for all forms of meditation, more time spent meditating will yield larger effects," said Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
"In other words, meditation is a skill that requires instruction from an expert followed by regular practice in daily life, so it's possible that in many of the trials reviewed the amount of training or the dose afforded in the trials was too small, and with more time, better results would have been found," Rego explained. "Hopefully, future research will examine this hypothesis."
Over the past three decades, interest in meditation has grown tremendously in Western culture, including the health care system, Rego pointed out.
"Many mental health professionals touting the health benefits of meditation either include meditative techniques as part of their treatment packages or focus solely on teaching these techniques as a primary aim for improving mental health," he said.