Anxiety is one of the signatures of life in our times. So check out this fascinating brand-new study on how well Transcendental Meditation reduces anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are regarded as the most common mental health problems in most countries, including South Africa, where the South African Stress and Health study recently found nearly 16% of the population to be affected (followed by 13% with substance abuse disorders and 10% with mood disorders)(1).
Anxiety further damages health by motivating increased smoking and drinking. Worse still, it boosts the risk of heart disease.
The new meta-analysis published TODAY in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Transcendental Meditation dramatically reduced anxiety in those with high anxiety to start with.(2)
This meta-analysis covered 16 randomized-controlled trials, the gold standard in medical research, and included 1295 subjects from various walks of life, age groups, and life situations. TM was compared with various control groups, including treatment-as-usual, individual and group psychotherapy, and various relaxation techniques. Studies on high stress groups, such as veterans suffering from PTSD and prison inmates, showed dramatic reductions in anxiety from TM practice, whereas studies of groups with only moderately elevated anxiety levels, such as normal adults and college students, showed more modest changes.
Unsurprisingly, those with moderate anxiety had lower anxiety reductions. This is because Transcendental Meditation tends to restore normal psychology.
Article co-author Dr Vernon Barnes commented: “Control groups who received usual treatment did not show dramatic reductions in anxiety. In fact, control groups that were highly anxious to begin with, if anything, tended to become more anxious over time.”
OTHER MEDITATION TECHNIQUES
Other techniques were compared with Transcendental Meditation. One such technique, progressive muscle relaxation, was also found to be effective in reducing anxiety, but without the other side benefits of TM, such as improved mental health and stress recovery.
But maybe meditation just triggers the placebo effect?
Lead author, independent researcher Dr David Orme-Johnson made an intriguing comment on the placebo efect:
He said: “Since anxiety is a self-reported measure, one might wonder whether the effects of TM practice or any other treatment program were a placebo effect. Placebos are great. If you give a person a sugar pill and tell them that it will reduce anxiety, it probably will, but only for a little while before the effect wears off. But the effects of TM were shown to be lasting and include objective benefits. For example a recent study showed that TM reduces heart attacks, strokes, and death over a ten-year period. So we know its effects are real and are not just due to a placebo.”
The meta analysis also examined the question of bias. It found that research conducted by researchers at universities having a TM link did not find greater effect sizes than research conducted at independent universities.
Previous studies have found that TM is highly effective in reducing anxiety, and is more effective than other meditation and relaxation techniques, including mindfulness meditation. (4, 5)
If you would like to know more about how Transcendental Meditation can help you to reduce anxiety and unfortunate lifestyle habits – pop us a contact request using the contact box top right. Or leave a comment below left.
1. Herman,AA et al. South African Stress and Health (SASH) study: 12-month and lifetime prevalence of common mental disorders. South African Medical Journal. 2009 May; 99(5 Pt 2): 339–344.
2. Orme-Johnson DW, Barnes VA. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on Trait Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Altern Complement Med 2013;19(10):1-12. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2013.0204
3. American Heart Association. Meditation may reduce death, heart attack and stroke in heart patients. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Nov 2012
4. Eppley K, Abrams AI, Shear J. Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. J Clin Psychol 1989;45(6):957-974.
5. Sedlmeier P, Eberth J, Schwarz M, et al. The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychol Bull 2012;138(6):1139-1171.