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Meditation and Cognitive Outcomes: A Longitudinal Analysis Using Data From the Health and Retirement Study 2000–2016

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We aimed to assess the association between meditation practice and cognitive function over time among middle-aged and older adults.


We included Health and Retirement Study (HRS) participants assessed for meditation practice in the year 2000 as part of the HRS alternative medicine module (n = 1,160) and were followed up for outcomes over 2000–2016 period. We examined the association between meditation ≥ twice a week vs none/less frequent practice and changes in the outcomes of recall, global cognitive function, and quantitative reasoning using generalized linear regression models. Stratified analyses among persons with/without self-reported baseline depressive symptoms were conducted to assess the link between meditation and cognitive outcomes.


Among our full study sample, meditation ≥ twice a week was not significantly associated with total recall [β = -0.20; 95% CI: -0.97, 0.57; p = 0.61], global cognitive function [β = 0.05; 95% CI: -1.01, 1.12; p = 0.92], and quantitative reasoning [β = -11.48; 95% CI: -31.27, 8.32; p = 0.26]. However, among those who did not have self-reported depressive symptoms at baseline, meditation ≥ twice a week was associated with improvement in cognitive outcomes such as total recall [β = 0.11; 95% CI: 0.03, 0.18; p = 0.01] and global cognitive function [β = 0.22; 95% CI: 0.05, 0.40; p = 0.01] over time.


Frequent meditation practice might have a protective effect on cognitive outcomes over time, but this protection could be limited to those without self-reported baseline depressive symptoms. Future studies could incorporate more precise meditation practice assessment, investigate the effect of meditation on cognitive outcomes over time, and include more rigorous study designs with randomized group assignment.


This study is not preregistered.

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Data Availability

This study used publicly available data from the Health and Retirement Study. Accessed from:


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The authors thank the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) for use of their data products.


This study was funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Grant (R01MD013886-02S1).

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Authors and Affiliations



Snehal Lopes: Conceptualization, Methodology, Data Curation, Formal Analysis, Writing- Original Draft, Reviewing and Editing. Lu Shi: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing- Reviewing and Editing, Supervision, Funding Acquisition. Xi Pan: Review and Editing. Yian Gu: Review and Editing. Christine Dengler-Crish: Review and Editing. Yan Li: Review and Editing. Biplav Tiwari: Review and Editing. Donglan Zhang: Conceptualization, Methodology, Review and Editing, Funding Acquisition.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lu Shi.

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Since the data used for this study included no protected health information and was publicly accessible, it was exempt from IRB review.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Lopes, S., Shi, L., Pan, X. et al. Meditation and Cognitive Outcomes: A Longitudinal Analysis Using Data From the Health and Retirement Study 2000–2016. Mindfulness 14, 1705–1717 (2023).

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