April 24, 2015
Mindfulness meditation is known to improve symptoms of many physical and mental health conditions. However, the group settings in which mindfulness meditation typically is taught can be problematic for many participants, either because of inconvenient scheduling or because people are averse to sharing in public.
A recent study by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the National College of Natural Medicine showed a significant preference for mindfulness instruction online compared to individual instruction in person or in live group settings. The study results support the use of online instruction, especially for mindfulness-based stress management and wellness programs to improve employee wellness and productivity.
Ample evidence shows that mindfulness meditation can improve a wide variety of health conditions: disability, anxiety, sleep disturbances, stress, and chronic pain, just to name a few. However, teaching mindfulness meditation in group settings can be problematic for some participants:
* Many people, especially caregivers and parents, find it challenging to attend mindfulness training at specific times or days. Or they may have difficulty traveling to specific locations where classes are held.
* Others are simply averse to group situations that require sharing in public. This is especially true of those with sensitive diagnoses such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. For those with PSTD, group attrition rates are as high as 50 percent.
These drawbacks speak to the need for mindfulness meditation instruction in other formats. But which formats would participants find most attractive and, therefore, attend?
A recent study of 500 adults by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the National College of Natural Medicine evaluated alternative formats and examined predictors that play a role in determining the training formats that people prefer.
Published by Helane´ Wahbeh, Matthew N. Svalina and Barry S. Oken in Open Medicine Journal (cited below), the study summarized results of an online survey of 500 English-speaking adults aged 18-70 years. The survey asked participants to select their preferred method of instruction if they were to learn mindfulness meditation. The survey also asked for qualitative responses to the question “Why or why not would you be interested in taking each of these formats?”
The study showed a clear and significant preference for mindfulness instruction online compared to individual instruction in person or in live group settings. Internet was rated as the first-choice format for most participants. The breakout of results was as follows:
- Internet: 212 participants (43%)
- Individual: 187 participants (38%)
- Group: 97 participants (20%)
Age, extraversion, and emotional stability were significant predictors. Participants with higher emotional stability scores were more likely to prefer internet or individual instruction to the group format than people with lower emotional stability scores. In qualitative answers, participants who chose the internet as their preferred format listed convenience, ease, privacy, not having to share with others, and scheduling flexibility as their reasons.
The study showed that participants preferred mindfulness meditation instruction first by the internet and second by individual formats to the more commonly used in-person formats. They also concluded that workplace programs and general stress reduction programs could be well suited to internet delivery formats.
eMindful Chief Medical and Operating Officer Joel Kahn, MD, agrees. “These findings are consistent with our company’s experience,” he says. “Engagement and completion rates for live, in-person mindfulness classes are typically about 60 percent. Our live, online classes tend to have rates that are 15 to 20 percent higher.”
Group, One-on-One, or Internet? Preferences for Mindfulness Meditation Delivery Format and their Predictors. Open Medicine Journal, 2014, I, 66-74.