(HealthDay News) – Moderate evidence suggests that meditation is associated with improvements in anxiety, depression, and pain, according to a review and meta-analysis published online Jan. 6 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Madhav Goyal, MD, MPH, from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to determine the efficacy of meditation programs in improving stress-related outcomes in adult clinical populations. Forty-seven randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo effects and involving 3,515 participants were included in meta-analyses.

The researchers observed moderate evidence of improved anxiety (effect size, 0.38 at eight weeks and 0.22 at 3–6 months), depression (effect size, 0.3 at eight weeks and 0.23 at 3–6 months), and pain (effect size, 0.33) with mindfulness meditation programs. Low evidence was found for improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life. For positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight, there was low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs. No evidence was found to indicate that meditation programs were superior to any active treatment (drugs, exercise, or other behavioral treatments).

“Despite the limitations of the literature, the evidence suggests that mindfulness meditation programs could help reduce anxiety, depression, and pain in some clinical populations,” the authors write. “Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation program could have in addressing psychological stress.”

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