Mindfulness Training is Effective with Widely Diverse Populations
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“In the last two decades, references to mindfulness-based treatments have proliferated. Its benefits are touted for many medical conditions and seem to be universally accepted as a technique to improve mental health across diverse populations.” – Sara Davin
Disadvantaged populations have a disproportionate share of mental health issues. Indeed, the lower the socioeconomic status of an individual the greater the likelihood of a mental disorder. It is estimated that major mental illnesses are almost 3 times more likely in the disadvantaged, including almost double the incidence of depression, triple the incidence of anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. These higher incidences of mental health issues occur, in part, due to mental health problems leading to unemployment and poverty, but also to the stresses of life in poverty.
Most psychotherapies were developed to treat disorders in affluent western populations and are not affordable or sensitive to the unique situations and education levels of the diverse populations. Hence, there is a great need for alternative treatments for diverse populations. One increasingly popular alternative is mindfulness practices. These include meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga, guided imagery, prayer, etc. The research on the effectiveness of mindfulness practices with diverse populations is accumulating, so it makes sense to stop and summarize what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “Addressing Diversity In Mindfulness Research On Health: A Narrative Review Using The Addressing Framework.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6746558/),Chin and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies on the effectiveness of mindfulness practice for various populations.
They report that the published studies found that mindfulness practice was beneficial regardless of age, being effective in children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, regardless of ethnicity, including black, Hispanic, native American, and Asian populations, and regardless of sexual orientation, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender participants. Mindfulness training was also found to improve the well-being of patients with acquired disabilities including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, traumatic brain injury, and multiple sclerosis. Mindfulness appears to be effective regardless of socioeconomic status, being beneficial in both affluent and poor participants and regardless of nationality, being beneficial for European Americans, Taiwanese, South Africans, British and Swedes. Finally, there’s only a small number of studies that compare the effectiveness of mindfulness practice for males versus females. In general, mindfulness practice appears to be beneficial for both genders, but possibly more beneficial for women than men.
These findings are quite striking and suggest that mindfulness training is beneficial for a wide variety of people with a wide variety of conditions. It is no wonder that mindfulness practice appears to be spreading rapidly, with meditation practice increasing from 4% to 14% of the US population over the last 5 years.
Hus, mindfulness training is effective with widely diverse populations.
“The application of mindfulness to diversity and inclusion is about opening and appreciating rather than rejecting difference.” – Joshua Ehrlich
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Chin, G., Anyanso, V., & Greeson, J. (2019). Addressing Diversity In Mindfulness Research On Health: A Narrative Review Using The Addressing Framework. Cooper Rowan medical journal, 1(1), 2.
Over the past 5 years, the number of Americans practicing meditation has more than tripled, rising from 4% of adults in 2010 to 14% in 2017.1 This rise is likely related to the increasing focus on preventive and integrative approaches to healthcare in the United States, such as meditation, which is often used to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain in conjunction with improving health and well-being.2 While many different meditative practices exist, mindfulness meditation emphasizes nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. Although substantial research supports mindfulness-related improvements in patient-reported mental and physical health,3 the replication crisis in social science and medicine, alongside numerous methodological concerns about extant mindfulness studies,4 invites questions regarding the generalizability of research on the reported health-promoting effects of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness as an innate, dispositional quality (trait mindfulness). Moreover, as much of mindfulness research over-samples middle-to-upper class, Caucasian, women,5 the extent to which results generalize to a broader, more diverse population is unclear. One possible reason for this overrepresentation could be that this population has the time and/or finances to participate in mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) from which researchers draw samples.
In 2001, Dr. Pamela Hays published Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice,6 introducing the ADDRESSING framework as a guide to help clinicians better identify and understand the relevant cultural identities of their clients. According to Dr. Hays, the facets of identity include: Age, Developmental and acquired Disabilities, Religion, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, National origin, and Gender. This framework allows room for intersectionality between identity facets and does not inherently exclude non-minority individuals. As such, the ADDRESSING framework, with its attention to multiple aspects of identity, provides an effective structure for organizing research published on different populations and identifying 1) which populations are represented and underrepresented in various categories and 2) what is known about underrepresented groups in research. The main purpose of this review, therefore, was to use the ADDRESSING framework to highlight mindfulness research conducted on historically underrepresented groups as both a method to summarize what has been done and to point out gaps for future research.
Overall, mindfulness can reduce stress and improve mental health in diverse populations. Given the unique stressors and mental health disparities individuals in diverse groups experience, mindfulness-related changes in mental health likely support improvements in health-related behavior, QoL and well-being.