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Utilization and Perceived Effectiveness of Mindfulness Meditation in Veterans: Results from a National Survey

  • Simon B. GoldbergEmail author
  • Steven B. Zeliadt
  • Katherine J. Hoggatt
  • Tracy L. Simpson
  • John C. Fortney
  • Stephanie L. Taylor



Complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches are increasingly utilized in health care, and mindfulness meditation is one such evidence-based CIH practice. More information is needed about veterans’ utilization of mindfulness to inform integration within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).


This study involved secondary data analysis of a national survey to evaluate utilization and perceived effectiveness of mindfulness relative to other CIH approaches among military veterans. Military veterans (n = 1230) enrolled in VHA reported CIH utilization rates, reasons for use, perceived effectiveness, treatment barriers, and demographics.


Approximately 18% of veterans reported using mindfulness meditation in the past year, exceeding the proportion using all other CIH approaches (p < .001), with the exception of massage and chiropractic care. Mindfulness was most commonly used for stress reduction and addressing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Among mindfulness users, veterans rated mindfulness with a mean score of 3.18 out of 5 (SD = 0.82) in terms of effectiveness, reflecting a response in the “somewhat helpful” to “moderately helpful” range. This was similar to ratings of other CIH approaches (mean = 3.20, p = .391). Of those who used mindfulness, nearly all (78%) reported only using it outside the VHA. Veterans identified not knowing if the VHA offered mindfulness as the most common reason for using mindfulness outside VHA.


In summary, veterans use mindfulness for a range of reasons and report receiving benefit from its use. Low awareness and potentially low availability of VHA’s mindfulness programs need to be addressed to increase access.


Mindfulness Meditation Complementary and integrative health Complementary and alternative medicine Veterans 


Author Contributions

SBG: conceptualized and executed the secondary data analysis and wrote the paper. SBZ: collaborated on study conceptualization and interpretation of results and edited the paper. KJH: collaborated on design of the primary study, collaborated on interpretation of results, and edited the paper. TLS and JCF: collaborated on study conceptualization and interpretation of results and edited the paper. SLT: lead the design of the primary study, collaborated on study conceptualization and interpretation of results, and edited the paper.


This work was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs Quality Enhancement Research Initiative program (PEC 16-354). The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the US Government. Support for this research was also provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research was conducted in compliance with human subject research ethical standards and approval from relevant governing bodies. The status of this work as quality improvement and not research was confirmed following review by the Research and Development Committee at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

Informed Consent

Due to the nature of this project as quality improvement, informed consent was not required.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin – MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D) Center of Innovation (COIN)VA Puget Sound Health Care SystemSeattleUSA
  3. 3.School of Public HealthUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.VA HSR&D Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation & Policy (CSHIIP)VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare SystemLos AngelesUSA
  5. 5.Department of EpidemiologyUCLA Fielding School of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  7. 7.Center of Excellence in Substance Abuse and Treatment (CESATE)VA Puget Sound Health Care SystemSeattleUSA
  8. 8.Department of Health Policy and ManagementUCLA Fielding School of Public HealthLos AngelesUSA

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