By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“with practice, meditation can help many people control how they react to the stress and anxiety that often leads to depression,” – John Denninger
Depression affects over 6% of the population. Depression can be difficult to treat. It is usually treated with antidepressant medication. But, of patients treated initially with drugs only about a third attained remission of the depression. After repeated and varied treatments including drugs, therapy, exercise etc. only about two thirds of patients attained remission. But drugs often have troubling side effects and can lose effectiveness over time. Clearly, there is a need for treatment alternatives that can be effective alone or in combination with drugs.
A particularly vulnerable population is Latino immigrants. They experience many forms of stress while attempting to acculturate to the new culture which frequently produces depression. Mindfulness practices including meditation have been found to be effective in relieving depression and preventing its reoccurrence. There is, however, a lack of studies of the effectiveness of meditation practice on depression in stressed Latino immigrant populations.
In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness meditation and improvement in depressive symptoms among Spanish- and English speaking adults: A randomized, controlled, comparative efficacy trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6611613/), Lopez-Maya and colleagues recruited adult Latino immigrants who reported high levels of psychological distress and stress. They were randomly assigned to receive 6 weeks of once a week for 2 hours group-based sessions in either mindfulness meditation or health education. The mindfulness meditation program consisted of “mindful sitting meditation, mindful eating, appreciation meditation, friendly or loving-kindness meditation, mindful walking, and mindful movement.” They were measured before and after training for depression, mindfulness, and perceived stress.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the health education group, after mindfulness meditation training there was a significant reduction in depression with small to moderate effect size, and large significant increases in mindfulness with large effect size. Hence, the mindfulness meditation program was successful in improving mindfulness and relieving depression in a Latino immigrant population.
The fact that mindfulness meditation training reduced depression is not surprising as the efficacy of this training for depression has been well established with a large number of studies. What the current study establishes is that mindfulness meditation training is effective in treating depression in Latino immigrants who are stressed and are experiencing psychological distress. Immigration is difficult and challenging. The present results suggest that mindfulness meditation training is a safe and effective method to help alleviate the psychological effects of these stresses and thereby improve the well-being of the immigrants. Future studies should evaluate the long-term effectiveness of this training for depression.
So, relieve depression in latino immigrants with mindfulness meditation.
“Depression is rooted in fears about the future and regrets about the past. Focusing on the moment, not the past or the future, is the secret behind meditation’s power.” – Eoc Institute
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Lopez-Maya, E., Olmstead, R., & Irwin, M. R. (2019). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in depressive symptoms among Spanish- and English speaking adults: A randomized, controlled, comparative efficacy trial. PloS one, 14(7), e0219425. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219425
Latino immigrants experience acculturative stress and increased depression risk. Mindfulness meditation improves depressive symptoms, yet the vast majority of research has focused on English speaking populations.
In this randomized clinical trial with 2 parallel treatment groups, adults with moderate levels of perceived stress (n = 76) were recruited from the Los Angeles community from October 2015 to March 2016, stratified into Spanish- (n = 36) and English speaking (n = 40) language groups, and randomized for 6 weeks of treatment with standardized mindful awareness practices (MAPs) or health education (HE). Main outcome measure was depressive symptoms, measured by the Beck Depression Inventory.
Using an intent-to-treat analysis, the primary outcome, depressive symptoms as indexed by the Beck Depression Inventory, showed greater improvement in MAPs vs. HE, with a between-group post-intervention mean difference of -2.2 (95% CI -4.4 – -0.07) and effect size of 0.28; similar effect sizes were found in the the Spanish- (0.29) and English speaking (0.30) groups. MAPs showed significant improvement relative to HE on secondary outcome of mindfulness with between group difference of 10.7 (95% CI4.5–16.9), but not perceived stress.
The comparable efficacy of Spanish and English formats of mindfulness meditation in improving depressive symptoms suggests that this community based intervention may mitigate depression risk in Latino adults who are experiencing social adversity.