A potential link that shows meditation can improve mental health outcomes, has been identified, according to new research.
While there has been growing popularity about the benefits of meditation practice, there has been limited evidence to date that supports what impact it has on health.
The research conducted collaboratively by Australian and Irish researchers showed the link between meditation and stress reduction after a study of prior research looking at meditation’s effect on the endocrine system.
Written by academics at Queen’s University Belfast and Melbourne’s Victoria University, the literature review emphasised the importance of the endocrine system as a part of understanding how the human body deals with stress.
“We focused on studies that analysed how meditation affected the endocrine system and a number of interconnected systems that regulate stress such as the Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal (HPA), the Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Thyroid (HPT) axis and the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone (RAA) system,” co-author Queen’s University Belfast’s Dr Chantal Ski, said.
Research Lead, Dr Michaela Pascoe from Victoria University said while the work showed that meditation impacted on how the HPA axis processes and responds to stress, there were also other potential observable relationships.
“Although the scope of research is currently limited, it seems that meditation may also influence the RAA system, corresponding with improved wellbeing and changes in hormonal stress.”
With limits to what can be found in a review process, both researchers believed there was plenty more to be discovered.
“Most studies to date have explored the effect of meditation practice on the HPA axis and much more research is needed to examine other aspects of the endocrine system,” Dr Pascoe said.
“Whilst it is intriguing that various meditation practices appear to induce changes in endocrine function and consequently be associated with improvements in mental health, the underlying associations and mechanisms that might operate are unclear, though likely involve psychological, physiological, and neurological processes.”
Dr Ski added further to that, suggesting that the potential policy implications of the collaborative findings also made further exploration a necessity.
“Given the multitude and severity of health issues related to persistent stress, it is paramount that more research is carried out in this area to help inform effective future healthcare policies among different groups as this could only lead to huge health benefits as well as financial benefits with more effective treatments in place,” she said.
Meditation is a popular activity in Australia; around one in six adults practice nationwide. It offers a potential outlet for nurses, midwives and carers looking for mechanisms to deal with the difficulties and stresses of their profession.