According to a randomized controlled study, published in Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, physicians who practiced the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique showed significant reductions in both burnout and depression symptoms. Research conducted at Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago found that practice of Transcendental Meditation produced large effect sizes in decreasing burnout and depression symptoms in academic physicians; controls exhibited smaller effect sizes. The research was done pre-covid.
Marie Loiselle, PhD, lead author and senior researcher at the Center for Social-Emotional Health at Maharishi International University, stated: “Prior to treatment, the physicians were discouraged by the impact that burnout was having on their work and personal lives. To see both burnout and depression reduced significantly across 1- and 4-month posttests for the Transcendental Meditation group indicates a real possibility for alleviating these symptoms throughout the health profession."
Sanford Nidich, EdD, co-author and director of the Center for Social-Emotional Health, explained that “these findings are consistent with research on Transcendental Meditation recently published in JAMA Network Open and the Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians showing large within-group effect sizes due to TM on burnout and depression symptoms in healthcare provider groups. The findings are also consistent with research on other populations.”
Forty academic physicians were enrolled in the four-month study, comparing the TM technique to treatment-as-usual controls. TM is described as a simple, effortless technique, practiced for 20 minutes twice a day, sitting with eyes closed. TM allows ordinary thinking processes to become more quiescent, resulting in a unique state of restful alertness. Controls continued with their usual care throughout the duration of the study. The primary outcome was total burnout, using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-2) was also used to determine effectiveness of TM on depression symptoms over the same time-period.
Repeated measures analysis of covariance was used to assess adjusted mean change scores. Significant improvements were found for the TM group compared to controls in total burnout (P=.020) including the MBI dimensions of emotional exhaustion (P=.042) and personal accomplishment (P=.018), and depression (P=.016).
The following is a sample of responses from semi-structured interviews with TM participants about their experiences:
“I’m more relaxed about things overall, more accepting, calmer, not as revved up by things. I think that is the biggest change.”
“If I am feeling really bothered by the day, I’m able to get over it easier and shift over to focusing on home.”
According to Gregory Gruener, MD, study co-author and Vice Dean for Education, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago: “Longevity in a career that will last 40 to 50 years requires a physician to embrace the ‘long-view’. While knowledge, skills and attitude are fundamental, Transcendental Meditation provides the clarity of mind and calmness that makes this journey as enjoyable and fulfilling as the destination.”
Funding support: This study was supported by grants from Loyola University and other private foundations and individual donors.
Article title: Effects of Transcendental Meditation on Academic Physician Burnout and Depression: A Mixed Methods Randomized Controlled Trial.
Authors: Loiselle, Marie PhD; Brown, Carla EdD; Travis, Frederick PhD; Gruener, Gregory MD, MBA, MHPE; Rainforth, Maxwell PhD; Nidich, Sanford EdD.
Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions
Method of Research
Randomized controlled/clinical trial
Subject of Research
Effects of transcendental meditation on academic physician burnout and depression: A mixed methods randomized controlled trial
Article Publication Date