02 November 2020

What evidence is there mindfulness and meditation reduce stress, anxiety and depression; improve mental and emotional health?

Want key scientific articles to share with family, friends or health professionals who need convincing? Need a little reassurance yourself??? 

Currently if one searches “mindfulness and meditation research”, Google comes up with around 17.6 million results. A bit daunting - so here are some of the top, recent articles (mostly meta- analyses) that make the case very clearly - with links to the actual articles, but first as an offering to voters in the USA this week and for all of us in general, two takes on a well known classic…

      Thought for the day

God grant me the serenity 

To accept the things I cannot change,

The strength to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

     The serenity prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity

To accept the people I cannot change

The courage to change the one that I can 

And the wisdom to know it is me.


Clearly mindfulness and meditation are areas of great interest amongst the medical research community as well as the general public. On our free mindfulness and meditation based Allevi8 app, claims are made that therapeutic benefits can be derived from mindfulness and meditation for

1. Reducing stress, anxiety and depression

2. Reducing disease related symptoms 

3. Accelerating healing

4. Pain relief

5. Alleviating nausea

6. Reducing fatigue

7. Improving emotional and mental health

While the quality of 17.6 million results varies quite a deal, there is a large volume of credible research in support of the Allevi8 claims. Over the next few weeks this blog will provide summaries of key articles that add to the evidence base for the App, starting in this post relating to mental health issues. 

These articles are documented on the Allevi8 App’s website Allevi8.net.

1.  Reducing Stress and Anxiety – via online mindfulness

Spijkerman MP et al. 2016, Clin Psych review, Vol 45, 102 114.

Effectiveness of online mindfulness-based interventions in improving mental health: A review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.  

The authors reported online Meditation- Based Interventions have a small but significant beneficial impact on depression, anxiety, well-being and mindfulness. The largest effect was found for stress, with a moderate effect size.

2. Reducing stress and anxiety – meditation

Goyal, M et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018.

This meta-analysis reviewed 18,753 citations, however, only 47 trials with 3515 participants met the stringent criteria to be included in the final analysis – having randomized clinical trials with active controls for placebo. 

The authors concluded meditation programs can result in small to moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress. Specifically, there was found to be moderate evidence of improved anxiety, depression and pain, with lower evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life. 

3. Reducing Stress and Anxiety – Mindfulness Based Therapy

Khoury B et al. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis; 2013 Clin Psych Review vol 33, 6, 763 - 771.

Meta-analysis (review) of studies evaluating Mindfulness Based Therapy – a specific form of mindfulness. The authors concluded “MBT is an effective treatment for a variety of psychological problems, and is especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress.”

4. Reducing psychological distress

Coffey, K. A., & Hartman, M. (2008). Mechanisms of Action in the Inverse Relationship Between Mindfulness and Psychological Distress. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13(2), 79–91. https://doi.org/10.1177/1533210108316307

The authors reported their results confirmed an inverse relationship between mindfulness and psychological distress.

5. Anxiety, mood disorders and accelerating healing

Arias et al. Systematic review of the efficacy of meditation techniques as treatments for medical illness. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12(8):817‐832. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.12.817

While there have been few studies examining the specific question of meditation’s influence on healing in general, early studies are positive.

The authors reported the strongest evidence for efficacy was found for epilepsy, symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms. 

Benefit was also demonstrated for mood and anxiety disorders, autoimmune illness, and emotional disturbance in neoplastic disease. They stated their results support the safety and potential efficacy of meditative practices for treating certain illnesses, particularly in nonpsychotic mood and anxiety disorders. 

6. Reducing depression and fatigue; improving sleep

Black DS et al. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(4):494–501. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

Following this randomised clinical trial, the author’s reported Mindfulness Awareness Practices showed significant improvement relative to the Sleep Hygiene Education group on secondary health outcomes of insomnia symptoms, depression symptoms, fatigue interference, and fatigue severity. 

7. Stress, anxiety and depression reduction; improvements in mental and physical health

From American Psychological Association website, 2019

Creswell JD and Khoury B. Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress : Mindfulness meditation can improve both mental and physical health.

Researchers reviewed more than 200 studies of mindfulness among healthy people and found mindfulness-based therapy was especially effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can also help treat people with specific problems including depression, pain, smoking and addiction. 

Some of the most promising research has looked at people with depression. Several studies have found, for example, that MBCT can significantly reduce relapse in people who have had previous episodes of major depression. 

What is more, mindfulness-based interventions can improve physical health, too. For example, mindfulness may reduce pain, fatigue and stress in people with chronic pain. Other studies have found preliminary evidence that mindfulness might boost the immune system and help people recover more quickly from cold or flu.

8. Depression and burn-out

Research on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has found that these techniques more than halve the relapse rate for people who have had depression - from 78% to 36%. Meditation changes our relationship to negative thoughts and emotions giving a non-attachment to them and therefore, we are not controlled by them so much.

In adolescents, mindfulness reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression, and somatic distress, and increases self-esteem and sleep quality.

For professionals with high stress loads such as doctors, Mindfulness has also been found to enhance wellbeing, reduce burnout and mood disturbance with increased empathy and responsiveness to their patients.


Ma SH, Teasdale JD. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: replication and exploration of differential relapse prevention effects: J Consult Clin Psychol. 2004;72(1):31-40

Biegel et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial: Journal of consulting and clinical psychology (2009) vol. 77 (5) pp. 855-66.

Krasner MS, Epstein RM, Beckman H, et al. Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians: JAMA. 2009 Sep 23;302(12):1338-40. 

Previous research has shown one in five Australians (21%) have taken time off work in the past 12 months due to feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. Workers who took part in this 30 day app trial were assessed over 12 months and reported fewer depressive symptoms while scores for workplace performance, resilience and wellbeing had improved.

“This is the first time researchers have ever been able to achieve reductions in depression incidence using an app alone,” claimed the lead author Dr Mark Deady.

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