The State of Research on the Health Benefits of Meditation

A January 2014 article in JAMA Internal Medicine questioned the extent to which researchers can claim a direct link between meditation and health benefits. Since its publication, the article has received a great deal of criticism about the narrowness of its scope. The author failed to touch on many major studies and the randomized clinical trials that have been conducted around the question of health benefits. The debate has reinvigorated discussion about the health benefits of meditation and may prompt doctors to investigate the question themselves.

Medical research on meditation began in the 1970s when the first article on the subject appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. Today, more than 1,000 articles have been published, more than half of which focus on a technique called Transcendental Meditation (TM). The American Heart Association conducted a long-term clinical trial that showed reduced rates of death, stroke, and heart attack among individuals who practiced TM. Other studies point to major cardiovascular benefits.

Some of the nation’s leading medical schools have become interested in the question of meditation’s health benefits. Many new studies have included research methods similar to those used to compare different drugs to look at the impact of different forms of meditation.