Pills may provide a quick fix when you're feeling depressed but a new study claims an alternative solution for getting you out of the blue. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that meditation may help ease depression and anxiety in certain people. The practice may even be as effective as taking anti-depressant pills in some cases.
The researchers reviewed 47 previous studies that that looked at meditation's effect on various conditions such as substance abuse, eating habits, sleep, pain, weight, depression and anxiety. All of the studies were randomized trial and involved 3,515 adult participants in all.
According to Madhav Goyal, assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and lead researcher of the study, the team's analyses showed that meditation has positive effects on anxiety and depression. "We found about a 5 to 10 percent improvement in anxiety symptoms compared to placebo groups," he said. "For depression, we found a roughly 10 to 20 percent improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the placebo groups. This is similar to the effects of antidepressants in similar populations."
The study did not also find that meditation is harmful and this brings good news for those looking for a safer alternative to pills in easing depression. Pills do not work at times and may even cause unwanted side effects.
The researchers also found that meditation may reduce pain but Goyal said it's hard to pin point which kind of pain can be most affected by meditation. "There weren't as many trials evaluating chronic pain, and so we don't understand what kinds of pain this type of meditation may be most useful for," he said.
The study, however, found that the effects of meditation are limited as there were little or no evidence of any benefits on positive mood, attention, substance abuse, eating habits, sleep and weight.
Allan Goroll, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, said that the analysis is a much-needed scientific study because there are plenty of people who make treatment decisions based on beliefs and not data.