One of the largest public health studies conducted so far on on meditation was published recently, based on a representative national survey of 19,209 Australian women. The survey indicates that nearly 35 per cent of women in the age group 28 to 33 practised meditation or yoga. In the 56- 61 age range, that figure was 27%. This study, which was carried out by the Public health Department of the University of Newcastle, Australia, focused on understanding the role of meditation and yoga of the general well-being as well as specific physical and emotional health parameters.
The following conclusions where drawn from from the study:
1. General health of regular meditators was significantly better than women who use meditation rarely or never.
2. Meditating regularly resulted in highly significant improvement in mental health. In addition, regular meditators also reported significantly higher level of vitality.
3. As regards emotional adjustment, the effect of meditation was less significant In the younger group in the study. However meditation was not found to make any positive difference in the quality of life of those who undertook meditation for physical functioning, or bodily pain.
But in the older age group, physical functioning improved significantly in those undertaking regular medication or yoga. But again, meditation had no impact on bodily pain in those who undertook it for that specific purpose.
The researchers who carried out this study have suggested that more work is necessary to account for the slightly differing results brought about by age. Because women in the younger age group experienced almost exclusively mental health benefits, compared to the older group who experienced an enhancement in both physical and mental health, it has been suggested that normal age related degeneration of musculo-skeletal physical health is in some way counteracted upon by meditation. Does this therefore possibly indicate that sustained meditation or yoga from a relatively younger age could slow down the effects of the normal ageing process?
Perhaps intuitively, younger meditation and yoga practitioners have anti-ageing as an implicit goal, explaining the popularity of meditation and yoga in the younger age group. Such positive health seeking behaviour forms the cornerstone of mind-body medicine, which is often preventive rather than seeking remedies for illnesses once they have developed. Perhaps this study is also important for establishing the reasons why meditation has become increasingly popular in recent years. As holistic preventive health care is largely absent from modern health care systems, a return to our spiritual roots in the form of meditative practice perhaps signifies that Western medical healthcare has for too long ignored the holistic interaction between the mind and body.
The prevalence and characteristics of young andmid-age women who use yoga and meditation:Results of a nationally representative survey of19,209 Australian women.
David Sibbritt , Jon Adamsb, Pamela van der Riet
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 19, 71—77 (April 2011)
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