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Who Sticks with Meditation? Rates and Predictors of Persistence in a Population-based Sample in the USA

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Despite the well-documented psychological benefits of meditation practice, limited research has examined factors associated with meditation practice persistence. Like other health behaviors (e.g., exercise), non-persistence may undermine the effectiveness of meditation.


We examined rates and correlates of meditation persistence using a population-based sample (n = 953) in the USA. Persistence was operationalized in two ways: number of lifetime practice sessions (i.e., lifetime persistence) and current practice frequency (i.e., current persistence). Consistent with the National Health Interview Survey, we defined meditation as mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, and spiritual meditation. We examined factors related to the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA), a theory that has been used to explain adherence to health behaviors.


Almost half of the sample (49.3%) indicated lifetime exposure to meditation and a third (35.0%) indicated practice in the past year. Factors positively associated with persistence (lifetime and/or current) included having spoken with a meditation teacher, higher perceived effectiveness of meditation, higher meditation-positive subjective norms, lower perceived barriers, higher conscientiousness, higher well-being growth mindset, and retreat experience. Factors negatively associated with persistence included first exposure through various forms of technology and having a mental health motivation for practice. First exposure through a smartphone app and first exposure through friends and family were not associated with lifetime or current persistence. Findings were unchanged after controlling for demographics and applying a false discovery rate p-value adjustment.


These findings provide insights into factors that may promote persistence with meditation, which can guide the delivery of meditation training.


This study was preregistered at the Open Science Framework (

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Data are available by request.


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This research was supported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Grant K23AT010879 (Simon B. Goldberg) and U24AT011289 (Richard J. Davidson), the National Institute of Mental Health Grant R01MH43454 (Richard J. Davidson), the Sweden-America Foundation (Otto Simonsson), by the University of Wisconsin—Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Simon B. Goldberg), with funding from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (Simon B. Goldberg), and by generous donors to the School of Education of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and by the Graduate School through support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Kevin M. Riordan). Richard J. Davidson is the founder, president, and serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization, Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc.

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Authors and Affiliations



Sin U Lam: conceptualization, methodology, software, formal analysis, data curation, writing–original draft, visualization. Kevin Riordan: conceptualization, writing–reviewing and editing. Otto Simonsson: writing–reviewing and editing. Richard Davidson: writing–reviewing and editing, funding acquisition. Simon Goldberg: conceptualization, methodology, software, formal analysis, investigation, data curation, writing–reviewing and editing, visualization, supervision, project administration, funding acquisition.

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Correspondence to Simon B. Goldberg.

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Conflict of Interest

Richard J. Davidson is the founder and president, and serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization, Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc. The remaining authors declare no conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, or publication of this article.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) office at University of Wisconsin–Madison (IRB #2020–1368). Written informed consent was obtained for participation of the current study.

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Lam, S.U., Riordan, K.M., Simonsson, O. et al. Who Sticks with Meditation? Rates and Predictors of Persistence in a Population-based Sample in the USA. Mindfulness 14, 66–78 (2023).

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