October 14, 2013
1 min read

Transcendental Meditation reduced trait anxiety vs. alternative treatment

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Data from a meta-analysis demonstrate the efficacy of Transcendental Meditation in those with high anxiety. According to researchers, the method is more effective than treatment as usual and most alternative therapies.

"It makes sense that if you are not anxious to begin with, that [Transcendental Meditation] practice is not going to reduce your anxiety that much," study researcher David W. Orme-Johnson, PhD, an independent research consultant, said in a press release. "Groups with elevated anxiety received significant relief from [Transcendental Meditation], and that reduction occurred rapidly in the first few weeks of practice."

David W. Orme-Johnson

David W. Orme-Johnson

Using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis program, the study included 16 randomized controlled trials identified through meditation research databases; data for 1,295 participants were available.

Ten studies compared Transcendental Meditation with alternative treatment; the standard difference in mean for Transcendental Meditation vs. alternative active controls was –0.5 (95% CI, –0.7 to –0.3). Compared with treatment as usual, the standard difference in mean was –0.62 (95% CI, –0.82 to –0.43).

Initial anxiety was found to predict the degree of anxiety reduction (P=.00001), according to meta-regression; however, no other variables predicted success. Further, anxiety levels that initiated in the 80th to 100th percentile (such as in those with chronic anxiety, veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder, prison inmates) were reduced to the 53rd to 62nd percentile ranges, according to the study results.

Benefits of Transcendental Meditation were demonstrated in the first 2 weeks of practice in studies using repeated measures, and these benefits were sustained at 3 years.

"Since anxiety is a self-reported measure, one might wonder whether the effects of [Transcendental Meditation] practice or any other treatment program were a placebo effect," Orme-Johnson said in the release. "Placebos are great. If you give a person a sugar pill and tell them it will reduce anxiety, it probably will, but only for a little while before the effect wears off. But the effects of [Transcendental Meditation] were shown to be lasting and include objective benefits. For example, a recent study showed that [Transcendental Meditation] reduces heart attacks, strokes and death over a 10-year period. So we know its effects are real and are not just due to a placebo."

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.