The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation: A Meta-Analysis

Abstract

Previous meta-analyses on the effects of mindfulness meditation were predominantly concerned with clinical research. In contrast, the present study aims at giving a comprehensive overview of the effects of mindfulness meditation on various psychological variables, for meditators in nonclinical settings. Included are 39 studies that fulfilled our six selection criteria: (1) a mindfulness meditation treatment, (2) the existence of an inactive control group, (3) a population of nonclinical adults, (4) the investigation of psychological measures that were (5) assessed at temporal distance from a meditation session, and (6) the availability of sufficient data to calculate effect sizes. The dependent variables examined included, among others, attention, intelligence, self-attributed mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, emotion regulation, personality traits, self-concept, self-realization, stress, and well-being. We found an effect size of \( \overline r = 0.27 \) averaged across all studies and dependent variables. The effects differed widely across dependent variables. Moreover, we found large differences between the effect sizes reported for complete Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs vs. “pure” meditation. MBSR seems to have its most powerful effect on attaining higher psychological well-being, whereas pure mindfulness meditation studies reported the largest effects on variables associated with the concept of mindfulness. This raises the question if some effect sizes found for MBSR might be partly inflated by effects that are not attributable to its mindfulness meditation component. Future theorizing should address meditation-specific concepts more extensively to account for the changes in healthy practitioners.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Notes

  1. 1.

    The effect sizes g and d can be interpreted in the same way, although g is generally slightly smaller than d, especially with small sample sizes, because it uses estimated population variances instead of sample variances.

References

*Study was included in the meta analysis

  1. *Alexander, C. N., Langer, E. J., Newman, R. I., Chandler, H. M., & Davies, J. L. (1989). Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: an experimental study with the elderly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 950–964.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. *Anderson, N. D., Lau, M. A., Segal, Z. V., & Bishop, S. R. (2007). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and attentional control. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14, 449–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. *Astin, J. A. (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation: effects on psychological symptomatology, sense of control, and spiritual experiences. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 66, 97–106.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: a conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Birnbaum, M. H. (2000). Psychological experiments on the internet. San Diego, CA: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bishop, S. R. (2002). What do we really know about mindfulness-based stress reduction? Psychosomatic Medicine, 64, 71–83.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Bishop, S. R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, J., & Devins, G. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). Meta-analysis on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic disease: what should the reader not make of it? Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 69, 614–615.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. *Brown, D., Forte, M., & Dysart, M. (1984). Differences in visual sensitivity among mindfulness meditators and non-meditators. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 58, 727–733.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. *Brown, K. W., Kasser, T., Ryan, R. M., Alex Linley, P., & Orzech, K. (2009). When what one has is enough: mindfulness, financial desire discrepancy, and subjective well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 727–736.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2009). How long does a mindfulness-based stress reduction program need to be? A review of class contact hours and effect sizes for psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 627–638.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. *Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. *Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. *Chan, D., &Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved? Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 13, 651–657.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. *Chang, V. Y., Palesh, O., Caldwell, R., Glasgow, N., Abramson, M., Luskin, F., Koopman, C. (2004). The effects of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program on stress, mindfulness self-efficacy, and positive states of mind. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 20, 141–147

    Google Scholar 

  16. Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: a review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 593–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Chiesa, A., Calati, R., & Serretti, A. (2011). Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilites? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 449–464.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Christopher, M. S., Charoensuk, S., Gilbert, B. D., Neary, T. J., & Pearce, K. L. (2009). Mindfulness in Thailand and the United States: a case of apples versus oranges? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 590–612.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Cleveland, W. S. (1985). The elements of graphing data. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

    Google Scholar 

  20. *Cowger, E. L., & Torrance, E. P. (1982). Further examination of the quality of changes in creative functioning resulting from meditation (Zazen) training. Creative Child & Adult Quarterly, 7, 211–217.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Cumming, G. (2012). Understanding the new statistics: effect sizes, confidence intervals, and meta-analysis. New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Cumming, G.,& Finch, S. (2005). Inference by eye: confidence intervals and how to read pictures of data. American Psychologist, 60, 170–180.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. *De Grace, G. (1976). Effects of meditation on personality and values. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 32, 809–813.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Egger, M., Smith, G. D., Schneider, M., & Minder, C. (1997). Bias in meta-analysis detected by a simple graphical test. BMJ, 315, 629–634.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. *Ernst, S. (2008). Achtsamkeitsmeditation: positive Einflüsse auf die Lebensqualität älterer Menschen in einem Pflegewohnheim. Unpublished dissertation, Berlin.

    Google Scholar 

  26. *Falkenström, F. (2010). Studying mindfulness in experienced meditators: a quasi-experimental approach. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 305–310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Festinger, L., & Carlsmith, J. M. (1959). Cognitive consequences of forced compliance. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 58, 203–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. *Grant, J. A., & Rainville, P. (2009). Pain sensitivity and analgesic effects of mindful states in Zen meditators: a cross-sectional study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71, 106–114.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hedges, L. W., & Olkin, I. (1985). Statistical methods for meta-analysis. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. *Heeren, A., Van Broeck, N., & Philippot, P. (2009). The effects of mindfulness on executive processes and autobiographical memory specificity. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 47, 403–409.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 169–183.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (1990). Methods of meta-analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (2000). Fixed effects vs. random effects meta-analysis models: implications for cumulative knowledge in psychology. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 8, 275–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (2004). Methods of meta-analysis: correcting error and bias in research findings (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Ivanovski, B. & Mahli, G. S. (2007). The psychological and neurophysiological concomitants of mindfulness forms of meditation. Acta Neuropsychiatrica, 19, 76–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. *Jain, S., Shapiro, S. L., Swanick, S., Roesch, S. C., Mills, P. J., Bell, I., & Schwartz, G. E. R. (2007). A randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation versus relaxation training: effects on distress, positive states of mind, rumination, and distraction. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 33, 11–21.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. *Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 7, 109–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. *Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10, 54–64.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York, NY: Hyperion.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Keng, S., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 6, 1041–1056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. *Klatt, M. D., Buckworth, J., & Malarkey, W. B. (2009). Effects of low-dose mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR-ld) on working adults. Health Education & Behavior, 36, 601–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. *Kobarg, A. (2007). Deutsche Adaptation der Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)—Validierung am Gesundheitsstatus und Gesundheitsverhalten. Unpublished dissertation.

  44. *Kozhevnikov, M., Louchakova, O., Josipovic, Z., & Motes, M. A. (2009). The enhancement of visuospatial processing efficiency through Buddhist Deity meditation. Psychological Science, 20, 645–653.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. *Lesh, T. V. (1970). Zen meditation and the development of empathy in counselors. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 10, 39–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. *MacKenzie, C. S., Poulin, P. A., & Seidman-Carlson, R. (2006). A brief mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aides. Applied Nursing Research, 19, 105–109.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  47. *Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, mindfulness and cognitive flexibility. Consciousness and Cognition: An International Journal, 18, 176–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. *Morone, N. E., Greco, C. M., & Weiner, D. K. (2008). Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: a randomized controlled pilot study. Pain, 134, 310–319.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. *Nyklicek, I., & Kuipers, E. (2008). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention on psychological well-being and quality of life: is increased mindfulness indeed the mechanism? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 331–340.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. *Oman, D., Shapiro, S. L., Thoresen, C. E., Plante, T. G., & Flinders, T. (2008). Meditation lowers stress and supports forgiveness among college students: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of American College Health, 56, 569–578.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  51. *Ortner, C. N. M., Kilner, S. J., & Zelazo, P. D. (2007). Mindfulness meditation and reduced emotional interference on a cognitive task. Motivation and Emotion, 31, 271–283.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. *Orzech, K. M., Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & McKay, M. (2009). Intensive mindfulness training-related changes in cognitive and emotional experience. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 212–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. *Pagnoni, G., & Cekic, M. (2007). Age effects on gray matter volume and attentional performance in Zen meditation. Neurobiology of Aging, 28, 1623–1627.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Reis, D. L. (2008). Mindfulness meditation, emotion, and cognitive control: Experienced meditators show distinct brain and behavior responses to emotional provocations. Unpublished dissertation.

  55. Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1966). Teachers' expectancies: determinants of pupils' IQ gains. Psychological Reports, 19, 115–118.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (1979). Comparing significance levels of independent studies. Psychological Bulletin, 86, 1165–1168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Rosenthal, R., & Rubin, D. B. (2003). r equivalent: a simple effect size indicator. Psychological Methods, 8, 492–496.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Rosnow, R. L., & Rosenthal, R. (2009). Effect sizes: why, when, and how to use them. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 217, 6–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Schmidt, F. L., Oh, I.-S., & Hayes, T. L. (2009). Fixed- versus random-effects models in meta-analysis: model properties and an empirical comparison of differences in results. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 62, 97–128.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  60. *Sears, S., & Kraus, S. (2009). I think therefore I am: cognitive distortions and coping style as mediators for the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, positive and negative affect, and hope. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65, 561–573.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sedlmeier, P.,& Renkewitz, F. (2008). Forschungsmethoden und Statistik in der Psychologie. Munich, Germany: Pearson Education.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Sedlmeier, P., Eberth, J., Schwarz, M., Zimmermann, D., Haarig, F., Jaeger, S., & Kunze, S. (2012). The psychological effects of meditation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin (in press).

  63. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Review of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for depression. Journal of Psychiatry & Law, 30, 271–274.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  65. *Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 581–599.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  66. *Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1, 105–115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. *Shapiro, S. L., Oman, D., Thoresen, C. E., Plante, T. G., & Flinders, T. (2008). Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 840–862.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  68. *Tacon, A. M., McComb, J., Caldera, Y., & Randolph, P. (2003). Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Family & Community Health: The Journal of Health Promotion & Maintenance, 26, 25–33.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Toneatto, T., & Nguyen, L. (2007). Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms? A review of the controlled research. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry/La Revue canadienne de psychiatrie, 52, 260–266.

    Google Scholar 

  70. *Valentine, E. R., & Sweet, P. L. G. (1999). Meditation and attention: A comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 2, 59–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Vettese, L., Toneatto, T., Stea, J. N., Nguyen, L., & Wang, J. (2009). Do mindfulness meditation participants do their homework? And does it make a difference? A review of the empirical evidence. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23, 198–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. *Walach, H., Nord, E., Zier, C., Dietz-Waschkowski, B., Kersig, S., & Schüpbach, H. (2007). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a method for personnel development: a pilot evaluation. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 188–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. *Wilson, J. M. (2009). An integral inquiry into the meaning of early attachment experiences for American Zen Buddhists. Unpublished dissertation.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Juliane Eberth.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Eberth, J., Sedlmeier, P. The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation: A Meta-Analysis. Mindfulness 3, 174–189 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0101-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Meta-analysis
  • MBSR
  • Nonclinical population