Mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety as much as common antidepressant: study
Mindfulness meditation is as effective at reducing anxiety as commonly prescribed antidepressants, according to research published Wednesday in a major journal.
The study, led by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, is the first randomized clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation with the antidepressant escitalopram. the results were published in JAMA Psychiatrypeer-reviewed journal.
Adult participants in the mindfulness group practiced 45-minute daily meditations using several different techniques learned in weekly classes. They also went on all-day weekend retreats.
Meditation techniques included breath awareness; body scanning, where attention is directed to one part of the body at a time; and mindful movement, in which stretching and movement focus attention on the body.
Participants in the antidepressant group received 10 mg of escitalopram daily for the first week, then 20 mg daily for the rest of the study if they tolerated the pills well. There were 102 patients in the mindfulness group and 106 in the antidepressant group. Escitalopram is sold under the brand names Lexapro and Cipralex, among others.
After following the two groups for eight weeks, researchers found that people who used mindfulness meditation saw their anxiety improve almost as much as people who took antidepressants.
dr. Elizabeth Hoge, lead author of the study, said the findings support doctors recommending mindfulness meditation as an alternative to antidepressants for some patients. Many people worry that antidepressants will interfere with their daily lives, and others start taking the medication but stop.
Hoge, who is director of Georgetown University’s Anxiety Disorders Research Program, said the study also provides evidence for insurers to cover mindfulness meditation as a treatment for anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness, affecting approximately 301 million people worldwide, according to in a February study published in Lancet Psychiatry.