Mindfulness-Based Interventions Reduce Psychological Distress in Working Adults: a Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies

Abstract

The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for reducing psychological distress in working adults. A comprehensive literature search of relevant databases included articles written in English published on December 2012. The meta-analysis included 19 controlled and uncontrolled intervention studies with a total of 1,139 participants. Analyses yielded medium-to-large mean effect sizes for the within-group (pre–post) comparison (Hedges's g = 0.68, 95 % confidence interval (CI) [0.58, 0.78]) and for the between-group (Hedges's g = 0.68, 95 % CI [0.48, 0.88]) comparison of MBI with an inactive control. Effectiveness was largely maintained at a median follow-up of 5 weeks (Hedges's g = 0.60, 95 % CI [0.46, 0.75]). Analyses based on subgroup comparisons suggested that brief versions of mindfulness-based stress reduction developed for organisational settings are equally effective as standard 8-week versions originally developed for clinical settings. However, there is little evidence to suggest that MBIs are more effective than other types of occupational stress management interventions, such as relaxation training and yoga, for reducing psychological distress in working adults. Overall, these findings support the use of MBIs in organisational settings for the reduction of psychological distress. Implications for practice and research are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

*Study was included in the meta-analysis

  1. *Adams, R. L. (2011). Examining the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training on working adults (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3444928).

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

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baer, R. A. (Ed.). (2006). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: clinician's guide to evidence base and applications. London: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Baer, R. A., & Krietemeyer, J. (2006). Overview of mindfulness- and acceptance-based treatment approaches. In R. A. Baer (Ed.), Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: clinician's guide to evidence base and applications (pp. 3–27). London: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Baskin, T. W., Tierney, S. C., Minami, T., & Wampold, B. E. (2003). Establishing specificity in psychotherapy: a meta-analysis of structural equivalence of placebo controls. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 973–979.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68, 539–544.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Borenstein, M., Hedges, L. V., Higgins, J. P. T., & Rothstein, H. R. (2009). Introduction to meta-analysis. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  8. *Brady, S., O'Connor, N., Burgermeister, D., & Hanson, P. (2012). The impact of mindfulness meditation in promoting a culture of safety on an acute psychiatric unit. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 48, 129–137.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bültman, U., Kant, I. J., Schröer, C. A., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). The relationship between psychosocial work characteristics and fatigue and psychological distress. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 75(4), 259–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 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(6), 627–638.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Chaskalson, M. (2011). The mindful workplace: developing resilient individuals and resonant organizations with MBSR. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 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(5), 593–600.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2011). Mindfulness based cognitive therapy for psychiatric disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 187, 441–453.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Chiesa, A., Serretti, A., & Jakobsen, J. C. (2013). Mindfulness: top-down or bottom-up emotion regulation strategy? Clinical Psychology Review, 33, 82–96.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Craighead, W. E., Sheets, E. S., Bjornsson, A. S., & Arnarson, E. O. (2005). Specificity and non-specificity in psychotherapy. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 12, 189–193.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Davidson, R. J. (2010). Empirical explorations of mindfulness: conceptual and methodological conundrums. Emotion, 10(1), 8–11.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. *Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Davies, W. R. (2008). Mindful meditation: healing burnout in critical care nursing. Holistic Nursing Practice, 22(1), 32–36.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Del Re, A. C., Flückiger, C., Goldberg, S. B., & Hoyt, W. T. (2013). Monitoring mindfulness practice quality: an important consideration in mindfulness practice. Psychotherapy Research, 23(1), 54–66.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. de Vibe, M., Bjørndal, A., Tipton, E., Hammerstrøm, K. T., & Kowalski, K. (2012). Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) for improving health, quality of life and social functioning in adults. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 2013:3, doi: 10.4073/csr.2012.3

  22. Didonna, F. (Ed.). (2009). Clinical handbook of mindfulness. New York: Springer.

  23. Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3, 174–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Escuriex, B. F., & Labbé, E. E. (2011). Health care providers' mindfulness and treatment outcomes: a critical review of the research literature. Mindfulness, 2, 242–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Fjorback, L. O., Arendt, M., Ørnbøl, E., Fink, P., & Walach, H. (2011). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy—a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 124(2), 102–119.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Franco, C., Mañas, I., Cangas, A. J., Moreno, E., & Gallego, J. (2010). Reducing teachers' psychological distress through a mindfulness training program. Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13(2), 655–666.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Fries, M. (2009). Mindfulness based stress reduction for the changing work environment. Journal of Academic and Business Ethics, 2, 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  28. *Geary, C., & Rosenthal, S. L. (2011). Sustained impact of MBSR on stress, well-being, and daily spiritual experiences for 1 year in academic health care employees. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(10), 939–944.

    Google Scholar 

  29. *Giluk, T. L. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction: facilitating work outcomes through experienced affect and high-quality relationships (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/674. Accessed 29 Nov 2011.

  30. Glomb, T. M., Duffy, M. K., Bono, J. E., & Yang, T. (2011). Mindfulness at work. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 30, 115–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Goetzel, R. Z., Long, S. R., Ozminkowski, R. J., Hawkins, K., Wang, S., & Lynch, W. (2004). Health, absence, disability, and presenteeism cost estimates of certain physical and mental health conditions affecting U.S. employers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 46, 398–412.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. *Goodman, M. J., & Schorling. J. B. (2012). A mindfulness course decreases burnout and improves well-being mong healthcare providers. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 43(2), 119–228.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Greeson, J. M. (2009). Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complementary Health Practice Review, 14, 10–18.

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(1), 35–43.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Hede, A. (2010). The dynamics of mindfulness in managing emotions and stress. Journal of Management Development, 29(1), 94–110.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Hedges, L. V., & Olkin, I. (1985). Statistical methods for meta-analysis. Orlando: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Higgins, J., Thompson, S. G., Deeks, J. J., & Altman, D. G. (2003). Measuring inconsistency in meta-analyses. BMJ, 327, 557–560.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Hilton, M. F., Scuffham, P. A., Sheridan, J., Cleary, C. M., & Whiteford, H. A. (2008a). Mental ill-health and the differential effect of employee type on absenteeism and presenteeism. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 50, 1228–1243.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Hilton, M. F., Scuffham, P. A., Vecchio, N., & Whiteford, H. A. (2010). Using the interaction of mental health symptoms and treatment status to estimate lost employee productivity. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44, 151–161.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Hilton, M. F., Whiteford, H. A., Sheridan, J. S., Cleary, C. M., Chant, D. C., Wang, P. S., et al. (2008b). The prevalence of psychological distress in employees and associated occupational risk factors. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 50, 746–757.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. 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.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. *Irving, J. A. (2011). Mindfulness-based medical practice: a mixed-methods investigation of an adapted mindfulness-based stress reduction program for health care professionals (Doctoral dissertation, McGill University, Canada). ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, NR78645.

  43. Irving, J. A., Dobkin, P. L., & Park, J. (2009). Cultivating mindfulness in health care professionals: a review of empirical studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 15(2), 61–66.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Jacobs, S. J., & Blustein, D. L. (2008). Mindfulness as a coping mechanism for employment uncertainty. Career Development Quarterly, 57, 174–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Jadad, A. R., Moore, R. A., Carroll, D., Jenkinson, C., Reynolds, D. J. M., Gavaghan, D. J., et al. (1996). Assessing the quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: is blinding necessary? Controlled Clinical Trials, 17(1), 1–12.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Jain, S., Shapiro, S. L., Swanick, S., Roesch, S. C., Mills, P. J., Bell, I., et al. (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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. Jennings, P. A., Snowberg, K. E., Coccia, M. A., & Greenberg, M. T. (2011). Improving classroom learning environments by cultivating awareness and resilience in education (CARE): results of two pilot studies. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 46(1), 37–48.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. Z., 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. *Josefsson, T., Lindwall, M., & Broberg, A. G. (2012). The effects of a short-term mindfulness based intervention on self-reported mindfulness, decentering, executive attention, psychological health, and coping style: Examining unique mindfulness effects and mediators. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-012-0142-1.

  50. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. New York: Delacourt.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps. Contemporary Buddhism, 12(1), 281–306.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. *Kemeny, M. E., Foltz, C., Cavanagh, J. F., Cullen, M., Giese-Davis, J., Jennings, P., et al. (2012). Contemplative/emotion training reduces negative emotional behaviour and promotes prosocial responses. Emotion, 12(2), 338–350.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Keng, S.-L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. L. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review, 31, 1041–1056.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  54. Kirsch, I. (2005). Placebo psychotherapy: synonym or oxymoron? Journal of Clinical Psychology, 61(7), 791–803.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. *Klatt, M. D., Buckworth, J., & Malarkey, W. B. (2009). Effects of a low-dose mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR-ld) on working adults. Health Education & Behavior, 36(3), 601–614.

    Google Scholar 

  56. *Krasner, M. S., Epstein, R. M., Beckman, H., Suchman, A. L., Chapman, B., Mooney, C. J., et al. (2009). Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA, 302(12), 1284–1293.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Larsen, A., Bøggild, H., Mortensen, J. T., Foldager, L., Hansen, J., Christensen, A., et al. (2010). Mental health in the workforce: an occupational psychiatric study. International Journal of Psychiatry, 56, 578–592.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Ledesma, D., & Kumano, H. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and cancer: a meta-analysis. Psycho-Oncology, 18, 571–579.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. *Mañas, I. M., Justo, C. F., & Martínez, E. J. (2011). Reducing levels of teacher stress and the days of sick leave in secondary school teachers through a mindfulness training programme. Clínica Y Salud, 22(2), 121–137.

  60. *Manotas, M. A. (2012). Brief mindfulness training to improve mental health with Colombian healthcare professionals (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 354006).

  61. Marchand, A., & Blanc, M. (2011). Occupation, work organisation conditions and the development of chronic psychological distress. Work, 40(4), 425–435.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Marianetti, O., & Passmore, J. (2010). Mindfulness at work: paying attention to enhance well-being and performance. In P. A. Linley, S. Harrington, & N. Garcea (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology and work (pp. 189–200). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Mars, T. S., & Abbey, H. (2010). Mindfulness meditation practice as a healthcare intervention: a systematic review. International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, 13(2), 56–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. *Martín-Asuero, A., & García-Banda, G. (2010). The mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) reduces stress-related psychological distress in healthcare professionals. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13(2), 897–905.

    Google Scholar 

  65. *McGarrigle, T., & Walsh, C. A. (2011). Mindfulness, self-care, and wellness in social work: Effects of contemplative training. Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work: Social Thought, 30, 212–233.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Michie, S., & Williams, S. (2003). Reducing work related psychological ill health and sickness absence: a systematic literature review. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 60, 3–9.

    Article  PubMed Central  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  67. Newell, D. J. (1992). Intention-to-treat analysis: implications for quantitative and qualitative research. International Journal of Epidemiology, 21, 837–841.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. *Pipe, T., Bortz, J. J., Dueck, A., Pendergast, D., Buchda, V., & Summers, J. (2009). Nurse leader mindfulness mediation program for stress management: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nursing Administration, 39(3), 130–137.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Rai, D., Kosidou, K., Lundberg, M., Araya, R., Lewis, G., & Magnusson, C. (2012). Psychological distress and risk of long-term disability: population-based longitudinal study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 66, 586–592.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  70. Richardson, K. M., & Rothstein, H. R. (2008). Effects of occupational stress management intervention programs: a meta-analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 13(1), 69–93.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  71. Roemer, L., & Orsillo, S. M. (Eds.). (2009). Mindfulness- and acceptance-based behavioral therapies in practice. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Rosenthal, R. (1993). Meta-analytic methods for social research. Newbury Park: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Shapiro, S. L., & Carlson, L. E. (Eds.). (2009). The art and science of mindfulness: integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, DC: The American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Stanley, E. A., Schaldach, J. M., Kiyonaga, A., & Jha, A. P. (2011). Mindfulness-based mind fitness training: a case study of a high-stress pre-deployment military cohort. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 18(4), 566–576.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Toneatto, T., & Nguyen, L. (2007). Does mindfulness meditation improve anxiety and mood symptoms? A review of the controlled research. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52, 260–266.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Vettese, L., Toneatto, T., Stea, J. N., Nguyen, L., & Wang, J. J. (2009). Do mindfulness meditation participants do their homework? And does it make a difference? A review of empirical evidence. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 23(3), 198–224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. 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 

  78. *West, R. R. (2011). Mindfulness skills training: an innovative approach to stress management for low SES workers (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3486752).

  79. *Wilson, D. M. (2012). Effects of mindfulness-based art processing (MBAP) on the well-being and job performance of working adults: evaluating a novel intervention (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3541745).

  80. *Wolever, R. Q., Bobinet, K. J., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, E. R., Fekete, E., Kusnick, C. A., et al. (2012). Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17(2), 246–258.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Conflict of Interest

No competing financial interests exist.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mario Virgili.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Virgili, M. Mindfulness-Based Interventions Reduce Psychological Distress in Working Adults: a Meta-Analysis of Intervention Studies. Mindfulness 6, 326–337 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-013-0264-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mindfulness-based interventions
  • MBSR
  • Psychological distress
  • Stress management
  • Working adults
  • Meta-analysis