Study: Meditation reduces anxiety as much as an antidepressant

And if meditate had the same virtues as antidepressants on anxiety disorders? This is in any case the hypothesis validated by a recent clinical trial conducted between the United States and France.

The study on the effects of meditation was conducted on a sample of 276 adults suffering from anxiety disorders. The results were unveiled in November 2022 in the prestigious journal American scientist “JAMA Psychiatry“.

A study with high evidentiary value

It was conducted jointly by Doctor Elizabeth A. Hoge from the Department of Psychiatry at Georgetown University (United States) and Professor Eric Bui, psychiatrist, researcher at the University of Caen.

“This is a study that has a level of evidence. It is randomized and single-blind,” explains the professor. This means, on the one hand, that the patients did not choose the treatment received. And, on the other hand, that the people who measured the improvement of the symptoms did not know the membership of the patients to such or such group.

The people followed were therefore assigned to two different branches. For eight weeks, the former received mindfulness meditation. When the latter were given treatment antidepressantin this case Escitalopram.

Two treatments: meditation and medication

The mindfulness meditation program (MBSR) followed by patients in the study included weekly two-and-a-half-hour classes guided by instructors. Patients were also asked to practice, alone, 45 minutes of additional exercises each day.


For patients treated with medication, they were given a dose of 10 mg of Escitalopram each day, by mouth. The dose was increased to 20 mg per day from the second week if the drug was well tolerated. Treatment compliance was measured by pill count and patient report.

“This was a non-inferiority study. We started from the premise that mindfulness meditation would do as well as the antidepressant. Patients who received the drug were expected to improve. Ditto for patients following the meditative practice. And this, in the same proportions, ”explains Professor Eric Bui. And that is exactly what could be measured.

Hope for patients with anxiety and depression

This clinical trial is the first study that scientifically establishes that the results of mindfulness meditation are comparable to those of drug therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders. “Furthermore, mindfulness meditation is better tolerated, with fewer adverse effects than drug therapy. »

Mindfulness training focuses attention on the present moment. Individuals train to view thoughts and feelings as transitory phenomena that are not necessarily a reflection of reality. This process improves emotion regulation and patients become less responsive to thoughts and feelings.

According to Professor Bui, the results of this clinical trial are more than encouraging for patients. On the one hand, “even if the drugs work, some people can’t stand the side effects. Second, the drugs don’t “work for everyone.” He also adds that, since the study was conducted on American patients, it is a real opportunity for a country with a fragile health system. “Meditation is more readily available than effective psychiatric care there,” he explains. Finally, it makes it possible to offer many people a more suitable and accessible treatment.

Recently, another study from the University of Caen Normandy proved the usefulness of meditation in people aged 65 and over. She would help live healthy longer by preventing certain forms of dementia.

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Study: Meditation reduces anxiety as much as an antidepressant

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