Research on Mental Health |

Research on the effects of the transcendental Meditation technique on Mental Health

The Issue: Is there any scientific research showing that the Transcendental Meditation program improves mental health?

The Evidence:

Several studies, some large scale, have shown that the Transcendental Meditation program has beneficial effects for populations at different levels of mental health status, and under different conditions of learning the technique.

  1. Effects of the on the general population who voluntarily learn the technique. An epidemiological study by the Swedish government found that the rate of mental health problems among the 35,000 people in the country who practice the Transcendental Meditation program was 100 to 200 times lower than the general population. In addition, numerous studies have reported wide-spectum mental health benefits from the practice.
  2. Effects on individuals who were encouraged to learn the technique in their workplace. A study of 800 industrial workers by Japan’s National Institute of Health found a wide range of mental health benefits from the Transcendental Meditation program.
  3. Effects on individuals who are highly dedicated to TM practice and who have participated in many extended meditation courses.  A studiy of Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance statistics on 693 faculty and staff of Maharishi University of Management found they had 92% lower rates of hospital admissions for mental health problems than the norm.
  4. Effects on individuals with serious pre-existing mental health problems: Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. A randomized controlled study of Viet Nam veteran’s found significant improvements in PTSS symptoms in those learning TM compared to those receiving psychotherapy.
  5. Effects on individuals with serious pre-existing mental health problems: Institutionalized Psychiatric Patients. A controlled study at a major mental health facility found the Transcendental Meditation program was highly beneficial over usual care in improving mental health status and reducing dependence on medications.
  6. Effects on reducing trait anxiety compared to other meditation and relaxation techniques. A comprehensive meta-analysis of 146 studies found that the Transcendental Meditation program is more effective in reducing trait anxiety than any other meditation or relaxation technique studied.
  7. Evidence That the Transcendental Meditation Program Has Broad Spectrum Benefits for Mental Health. Numerous studies show that the Transcendental Meditation program:
    • has beneficial effects on many different aspects of mental health;
    • reduces negative personality characteristics such as tension, nervousness, neuroticism, hypochondria, irritability, and vulnerability;
    • has benefits for psychiatry, including reduced psychiatric illness, decreased depression, decreased psychosomatic disorders, improvements in schizophrenia, improvements in manic-depressive psychosis, and improvements in addictive disorders; and,
    • has benefits in special education, such as benefits for children with learning problems, decreasing overactive and impulsive behavior, improvements in autism, and decreased dropout rate in deprived adolescents with learning problems.

1. Epidemiological Evidence of Reduced Mental Health Problems in the Population Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Program.

The hypothesis that meditation may cause harm to some individuals is contradicted by a large epidemiological study conducted by the Swedish National Health Board (Socialstyrelsen) in 1975.  The purpose of the study was to see if the Transcendental Meditation program and other self-help programs being practiced in Sweden at the time were putting the population at risk for mental health problems. Questionnaires were sent to 182 psychiatric care units in Sweden, including 133 hospitals and 49 policlinics. It was found that whereas the total incidence of psychiatric hospital care was 1:20 for the whole population of Sweden, the incidence for the subpopulation of 35,000 TM meditators in Sweden was 1:3,500. Thus, the admissions for psychiatric hospital care were 150-200 times less common among the TM meditators than for the population as a whole. The study found no evidence of a causal relation between TM practice and psychiatric disease. On the contrary, this government-sponsored study provided strong evidence that the program is beneficial to mental health.

Ottoson, J-O. Swedish National Health Board Report on Transcendental Meditation. 1977; Socialstyrelesen D: nr SN3_9_1194/73.

Suurkala J. The Transcendental Meditation technique and the prevention of psychiatric illness. In: Chalmers RA, Clements G, Schenkluhn H, Weinless M (eds). Scientific research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program: Collected papers, Vol. 2.  Vlodrop, the Netherlands: MVU Press; 1989. pp. 896-897.

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2. Study in Japanese Heavy Industry.

The Japanese Government’s National Institute of Health conducted a study on nearly 800 industrial workers at one of that country’s largest manufacturing plants. It used a questionnaire of change in various symptoms. It found significant improvements in physical and mental health after five months practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique relative to untreated controls over the same time period at the same industrial site. Results included decreases in physical complaints, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, reduced smoking, reduced insomnia, fewer digestive problems, decreased neurotic tendencies, and reduced psychosomatic problems. Moreover, a meta-analysis has indicated strong consistent effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on reducing trait anxiety, and a positive correlation between length of meditation and reduced anxiety.

Haratani T, Henmi T. (1990) Effects of Transcendental Meditation on health behavior of industrial workers. Japanese Journal of Public Health; 37:729.

Haratani T, Henmi T. (1990) Effects of Transcendental Meditation on mental health of industrial workers. Japanese Journal of Public Health; 32:177.

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 3. Blue Cross Blue Shield Statistics on Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse for a Group of Dedicated Meditators. 

A critical test of the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on mental health would be its effects on intensive practitioners. The faculty and staff of Maharishi University of Management (M.U.M.) practice the Transcendental Meditation technique regularly every day, and participate in many courses of extended meditations for longer than the normal routine.  A study of Blue Cross Blue Shield medical care utilization statistics compared the M.U.M. group with the Norm and Controls, defined as:

M.U.M. = 693 faculty and staff at Maharishi University of Management;
Norm = statewide normative data based on approximately 600,000 people;
Controls = aggregate data from over 3,000 faculty and staff from other private colleges in the state, which controlled for age, profession, education level, and geographic region.

It can be seen in Table 1 that M.U.M.'s rate of hospital admissions for Mental Health & Substance Abuse was 10.63  times less than the Norm and 6.68 times less than Controls (see ratios).  Moreover, M.U.M had lower hospital admissions rates in all categories of disease, which indicates the general effect of the program on health. Overall, the hospitalization rate for M.U.M. was 80% lower than the norm, compared to a TM-only group from a previous study of 67% below the norm. The difference was that the M.U.M. group, in addition to the Transcendental Meditation technique, also practiced other aspects of Maharishi Vedic Approach to Health.

TABLE 1—Hospital Admission Rates, Ratios, and % Difference Between Groups for Different Treatment Categories, Arranged By Costliness in Descending Order.

                                        Hospital Admissions/1000


Treatment Categories










% Diff.


vs. Norm

% Diff.b


vs. Norm

















Benign/Cancerous Tumors
















Mental Health & Substance Abuse
































Symptoms with Unknown Cause






















Virus/Bacterial Infections








Glands/Metabolism/Immune Sys.








Birth Defects






































a. Age adjusted.
b. Data on TM-Only subjects from previous study of 2000 meditators over 5 years, Orme-Johnson DW. Medical care utilization and the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine,  1987; 49:493-507.


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

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4. Benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

A study of war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome randomly assigned subjects to either the Transcendental Meditation program or psychotherapy. The comparison subjects receiving psychotherapy were of similar age, background, and were undergoing similar life-problems as those who received the Transcendental Meditation program. Yet the TM group showed significant improvements compared to controls on all measures—decreased anxiety, decreased alcohol use, decrease marital problems, decreased startle response, decreased emotional numbness, and improved employment status.

Brooks, J. S., and Scarano, T. Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of post-Vietnam adjustment. Journal of Counseling and Development  64: 212–215, 1986.

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5. Effects on individuals with serious pre-existing mental health problems: Institutionalized Psychiatric Patients.

Bernard Glueck, M.D. and Charles Stroebel, M.D., Ph.D. conducted research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation program and a variety of biofeedback procedures in the treatment of very serious psychiatric patients at the Institute of Living in Hartford Connecticut.  Forty percent of the patients were schizophrenics, and the others had serious psychiatric problems, so this study is a critical test of whether TM is indicated with extremely unstable people.

"Clinical outcome data comparing TM patients and their matched controls receiving just the usual hospital treatment plan overwhelmingly favored the TM group by whatever measure has been evaluated (condition on discharge, MMPI admission-discharge difference scores, daily automated nursing-note evaluation of psychopathology, decrease in medication for insomnia, etc., with TM versus matched control group p values ranging from .05 to .001 using t tests and chi-square tests of significance, as appropriate) (Glueck & Stroebel, 1975).

"What can be concluded from the clinical data of this study?  First, passive meditation did not have an adverse effect on psychiatric inpatients, 40% of whom were diagnosed as schizophrenic.  Second, a majority of patients subjectively reported that the calming effect of TM played a significant role in their recovery.  Third, passive meditation is accepted more readily with longer compliance than training in progressive relaxation or EEG alpha rhythm enhancement.” (Stroebel and Gluck, 1978, pp. 413-414).

Bernard C. Glueck and Charles F. Stroebel. Biofeedback and Meditation and the Treatment of Psychiatric Illness. Comprehensive Psychology, Volume 16, Number 4, 1975.

Bernard C. Glueck and Charles F. Stroebel. Biofeedback and Meditation and the Treatment of Psychiatric Illness. Current Psychiatric Therapies, Vol. 15, 1975, p. 109-115.

Charles F. Stroebel and Bernard C. Glueck. Passive Meditation: Subjective, Clinical, and Electrographic Comparison with Biofeedback. In G. E. Schwartz and David Shapiro (editors) Consciousness and Self Regulation, Volume Two. Plenum Press, New York, 1978.

Bernard C. Glueck and Charles F. Stroebel. Meditation in the Treatment of Psychiatric Illness. Meditation: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives. New York: Alden Publications, 1984, p. 150.

For a detailed summary of the finding so these papers, go the Glueck and Stroebel research.

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6. Effects on reducing trait anxiety compared to other meditation and relaxation techniques.

Trait anxiety is how anxious one usually is. This meta-analysis compared all techniques on which trait anxiety had been studied, 146 independent outcomes. The subject populations included in the study were college, high school, adult, psychiatric or drug abuse patients, children, adult prisoners, juvenile offenders, and the elderly. Subjects with initially high and low levels of anxiety were also studied. The techniques studied were the Transcendental Meditation technique, Progressive Relaxation (PR), Benson's technique, Concentration Meditation, Sanskrit Mantra Meditation with Permissive Attitude, EMG Biofeedback, and Placebo Techniques. The study found that the Transcendental Meditation program had more than twice the effect size on reducing trait anxiety as PR and all other treatments. All the other techniques, including Benson’s technique, scored no better than a placebo. The exception was Concentration Meditation, which was less effective than a placebo, indicating that concentration and control of the mind can exacerbate anxiety.

This meta-analysis controlled for a number of possible confounding variables, including mental health status of the population, age, sex, experimental design, duration and hours of treatment, pretest anxiety, demand characteristics, expectation effects, experimenter attitude (whether the researcher was pro-or anti-TM), type of publication, and attrition. These controls did not alter the overall conclusions. The difference in effect sizes between the Transcendental Meditation program and other treatments was maintained even when only published studies were included, when only studies with the strongest design were included, or when only randomized studies conducted by researchers who were neutral or negative towards the TM program were included. Of all the techniques studied, only the Transcendental Meditation technique showed a positive correlation between the reduction of anxiety and length of time meditation. These results indicate that it is the practice of the Transcendental Meditation per se that causes the reduction on anxiety, not some other factors.

Eppley, Abrams, & Shear, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 957-974, 1989.


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7. Evidence That the Transcendental Meditation Program Has Broad Spectrum Benefits for Mental Health.

The physiological studies have shown the Transcendental Meditation technique provides an extended experience of the junction point between waking, dreaming, and sleep. The question raised by some psychiatrist is whether this could be harmful to some individuals.  The following list of research results on mental-health related variables is from original studies reprinted in Scientific Research on the Transcendental Meditation Technique: Collected Papers, Vol. 1-5. The studies strongly support the hypothesis that regular experience of the physiological state of deep rest produced by the Transcendental Meditation program has a generalized normalizing effect for many different kinds of stresses relating to pre-existing psychiatric conditions.

Mental Health
Negative Personality Characteristics 

Benefits in Psychiatry
Benefits in Special Education

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