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The Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Mortality

Increased life span with a higher quality of life

Study 1. The evidence that the Transcendental Meditation program has beneficial effects on reducing physiological and psychological stress mechanisms led to the hypothesis that it may extend life span, along with a higher quality of life. The first study examining its impact on survival was on 73 elderly prehypertensive whites, men and women, mean age 81 years, recruited from residence homes for the elderly. Subjects were randomly assigned to the TM technique or one of three other groups. The other groups were: 1. a form of Mindfulness, in which subjects performed a structured word-production task and an unstructured creative mental task, with the idea that if you keep the mind active, it will slow the effects of aging; 2. mental relaxation, which was modeled after the TM technique, except that instead of a mantra subjects used a familiar verse, song, or poem of their choosing; 3. no treatment, just usual care of the homes. After three years, 100% of the TM subjects were still alive compared with 87.5% for mindfulness, 65% for mental relaxation, 77.3% for no treatment, and 62.6% for 478 non-participating elders in the homes (Alexander, Langer, Newman, Chandler, & Davies, 1989). At a 15-year follow-up, the other groups were not significantly different from each other, so they were combined into a single control group to increase statistical power. All-cause survival time was significantly higher for the TM group (9.5 years) compared to 7.7 years for controls, a 19% proportional difference. Mean survival time for cardiovascular disease mortality was 12.3 years in the TM group compared to 9.2 years for controls, with a 25% difference (Alexander et al., 1996; Barnes, 1996).

Study 2. The second group studied was 109 African Americans men and women (mean age 67 years at the start of the experiment) with stage I or II hypertension. Subjects were randomly assigned to the Transcendental Meditation technique, progressive muscle relaxation or health education groups. During the 8-year follow-up, 25 patients died: 5 in the TM group, 10 in the progressive muscle relaxation group, and 10 in the control group. There were 11 cardiovascular disease fatalities: 1 in the TM group, 4 in the progressive muscle relaxation group, and 7 in the health education group. CVD mortality relative risk was .19 for TM compared to the health education control group (Barnes et al., 2005).

Pooled Analysis. A follow-up analysis pooled the results from the above two randomized studies (N = 202), using meta-analysis of individual patient data. Compared with controls, the TM group showed a 23% decrease in all-cause mortality after a mean follow-up of 7.6 years (relative risk 0.77). The TM group showed a 30% decrease in the rate of cardiovascular mortality (relative risk 0.70) and a 49% decrease in the rate of mortality due to cancer (relative risk 0.49) compared controls. These results suggest that the TM program may contribute to decreased mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in older subjects who have systemic hypertension (Schneider, Alexander, Staggers, Rainforth et al., 2005).

Higher Quality of Life. Importantly, research shows that practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique not only extends life, but also improves the quality of life by increasing mental clarity, reducing “feeling old”, lowering blood pressure, and reducing medical care utilization and expenditures (Alexander et al, 1989; Herron et al., 1996; Herron & Cavanaugh, 2005; Orme-Johnson, 1987; Orme-Johnson & Herron, 1997).

Also see Healthier Ageing and Increased Longevity


Alexander, C., Barnes, V., Schneider, R., Langer, E., Newman, R., Chandler, H., et al. (1996). Randomized controlled trial of stress reduction on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in the elderly: Results of 8 year and 15 year follow-ups. Circulation, 93(3), 629.

Alexander, C. N., Langer, E. J., Newman, R. I., Chandler, H. M., & Davies, J. L. (1989). Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: An experimental study with the elderly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 950-964.

Barnes, V. A., Schneider, R. H., Alexander, C. N., Rainforth, M., Staggers, F., Salerno, J., et al. (2005). Impact of Transcendental Meditation on mortality in older African Americans with hypertension—eight year follow-up. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17(1), 201-216.

Herron, R. E., Cavanaugh, K. L. (2005). Can the Transcendental Meditation program reduce medical expenditures in older people? A longitudinal cost-reduction study in Cananda. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17(1), 415-442.

Herron, R. E., Hillis, S. L., Mandarino, J. V., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Walton, K. G. (1996). The impact of the Transcendental Meditation program on government payments to physicians in Quebec. American Journal of Health Promotion. 10(3), 208-216.

Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Medical care utilization and the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine, 49, 493–507.

Schneider, R. H., Alexander, C. N., Staggers, F., Rainforth, M., Salerno, J. W., Hartz, A., et al. (2005). Long-term effects of stress reduction on mortality in persons >/=55 years of age with systemic hypertension. American Journal of Cardiology, 95(9), 1060-1064.

Orme-Johnson, D.W., Herron, R. (1997). An innovative approach to reducing medical care utilization and expenditures. American Journal of Managed Care, 3(1), 135-144.

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