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Study Suggests Transcendental Meditation Helps College Students

Transcendental Meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression among at-risk college students, according to a new study by American University.

Transcendental Meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression among at-risk college students, according to a new study by American University.

Transcendental Meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and depression among at-risk college students, according to a new study to be published by American University and Maharishi University of Management in the American Journal of Hypertension, December 2009.

“The standard Transcendental Meditation program to reduce stress showed significant decreases in blood pressure and improved mental health in young adults at risk for hypertension,” said David Haaga, coauthor of the study and American University professor of psychology.

The findings are timely. Today, an estimated 18 million students are dealing with mental health issues on college campuses. Statistics from colleges nationwide indicate there has been a 50 percent increase in the diagnosis of depression, and more than twice as many students are on psychiatric medications than a decade ago. According to recent national surveys of campus therapists, more students than ever are seeking psychiatric help on college campuses all across the United States.

“This is the first randomized controlled study to show in young adults at risk for hypertension reductions in blood pressure that were associated with changes in psychological distress and coping,” said Sanford Nidich, coauthor and senior researcher at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management. “Previous research has shown that psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, and anger contribute to the development of hypertension in young adults,” said Nidich.

This study was conducted at American University with 298 university students randomly allocated to either the Transcendental Meditation technique or wait-list control over a three-month intervention period. A subgroup of 159 subjects at risk for hypertension was analyzed separately. At baseline and after three months, blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping ability were assessed.

For the students at risk for developing hypertension, significant improvements were observed in blood pressure, psychological distress and coping. Compared to the control group, students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program showed reductions of 6.3 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 4.0 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure. These reductions are associated with a 52 percent lower risk for development of hypertension in later years.

College students are particularly prone to psychological distress caused by interpersonal and social problems, pressures to succeed academically, financial strains, and uncertain futures. For the entire sample in this study, there was a significant improvement in students’ mental health.