Prisoners have one of the highest rates of lifetime trauma of any segment of society, with recent surveys showing that 85% have been a victim of a crime-related event, such as robbery or home invasion, or physical or sexual abuse. Trauma is associated with higher rates of recidivism (returning to prison) and mental and physical health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
A randomized controlled trial of 181 male Oregon state correctional inmates found that the Transcendental Meditation program significantly decreased total trauma symptoms, anxiety, depression, dissociation and sleep disturbance subscales, and perceived stress compared to controls over a four-month period. Trauma symptoms and perceived stress were assessed using the Trauma Symptoms Checklist and the Perceived Stress Scale.
Within the TM group, a 47% reduction in total trauma symptoms was observed over the course of the four-month study. Further post-hoc analysis showed a 56% reduction within the TM group for those with the highest level of trauma symptoms above the mean in baseline trauma scores.
Compliance with TM practice was high. Of those randomized to learn the TM program, 88% completed the initial seven-step TM course (total of five sessions) and over 80% were regular with their daily TM practice over the course of the four-month study, which included weekly meetings to ensure continued correct effortless practice.
“To date this is the largest randomized controlled trial with the Transcendental Meditation program on trauma symptoms,” said Dr. Nidich, lead author of the study and director of Maharishi University of Management Center for Social and Emotional Health. “These findings, along with previous published research on veterans, active military personnel, international refugees, and other at-risk populations provide support for the value of the Transcendental Meditation program as an alternative treatment for posttraumatic stress.”
“I have watched inmates learn Transcendental Meditation and become more human after a long and isolating period of becoming less human,” said study co-author Dr. Tom O’Conner, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Western Oregon University. “TM helps to awaken, deepen, and solidify the kind of transformational process that we so badly need in our overburdened and costly correctional system.”
The study, Reduced trauma symptoms and perceived stress in male prison inmates through the Transcendental Meditation program: A randomized controlled trial, was published in The Permanente Journal, and funded by the David Lynch Foundation.
Read more valuable information about this study in the press release, from where this content was excerpted, on EurekAlert!/AAAS.
Another study, this one done with female prisoners, also in Oregon, will be published later this month.