Unwanted effects: Is there a negative side of meditation? A multicentre survey.

Author: Cebolla A1,2, Demarzo M3,4, Martins P3, Soler J5,6,7, Garcia-Campayo J8,9,10
1Universitat de València, València, Spain.
2CIBER de la Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y la Nutrición (CIBEROBN), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.
3Mente Aberta - Brazilian Center for Mindfulness and Health Promotion, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
4Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, São Paulo, Brazil.
5Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau & Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica Sant Pau (IIB-SantPau), Barcelona, Spain.
6Psychiatry and Legal Medicine Department, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
7Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM), Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.
8Hospital Universitario Miguel Servet, Zaragoza, Spain.
9Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud, Zaragoza, Spain.
10Red de Investigación en Actividades de Prevención y Promoción de la Salud (REDIAPP-G06-170 and RD06/0018/0017), Zaragoza, Spain.
Conference/Journal: PLoS One.
Date published: 2017 Sep 5
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Issue ID: 9 , Pages: e0183137 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183137. eCollection 2017. , Word Count: 287

OBJECTIVES: Despite the long-term use and evidence-based efficacy of meditation and mindfulness-based interventions, there is still a lack of data about the possible unwanted effects (UEs) of these practices. The aim of this study was to evaluate the occurrence of UEs among meditation practitioners, considering moderating factors such as the type, frequency, and lifetime duration of the meditation practices.

METHODS: An online survey was developed and disseminated through several websites, such as Spanish-, English- and Portuguese-language scientific research portals related to mindfulness and meditation. After excluding people who did not answer the survey correctly or completely and those who had less than two months of meditation experience, a total of 342 people participated in the study. However, only 87 reported information about UEs.

RESULTS: The majority of the practitioners were women from Spain who were married and had a University education level. Practices were more frequently informal, performed on a daily basis, and followed by focused attention (FA). Among the participants, 25.4% reported UEs, showing that severity varies considerably. The information requested indicated that most of the UEs were transitory and did not lead to discontinuing meditation practice or the need for medical assistance. They were more frequently reported in relation to individual practice, during focused attention meditation, and when practising for more than 20 minutes and alone. The practice of body awareness was associated with UEs to a lesser extent, whereas focused attention was associated more with UEs.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first large-scale, multi-cultural study on the UEs of meditation. Despite its limitations, this study suggests that UEs are prevalent and transitory and should be further studied. We recommend the use of standardized questionnaires to assess the UEs of meditation practices.

PMID: 28873417 PMCID: PMC5584749 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183137

keywords side-effect