These days, many people proclaim the benefits of mindfulness, which includes activities like meditating, reflection and plenty of deep-breathing. Those who prescribe to these practices claim they are less stressed out and calmer and they’re not wrong. Reports have been published that say mindfulness can be as effective as antidepressants. However, as more analysis has been done on reports like those, it seems that only positive outcomes are being reported and anything negative is simply brushed under the rug.
It’s not that results of mindfulness effectiveness studies aren’t being reported at all, it’s that only the good stories are being shared. A group from McGill University in Canada are the ones researching this issue. Their initial discovery was that, out of 124 studies that dug into mindfulness as a way to treat mental issues, 60 percent of the time, positive results were being reported more than was likely.
Not only are mostly positive results being shared, but the findings of some studies never see the light of day. The same team from the university also found that, out of 21 clinical trials, only 62 percent had reported their results by the end of a 30 month period. This doesn’t necessarily mean the results that weren’t shared were negative, but it definitely shows that not everything is being reported, which is a problem.
Those of you reading this article now realize that taking mindfulness study data with a grain of salt probably isn’t a bad idea. But, what should mental health professionals, who base a lot of their practice on studies like these, do? How can their patients trust their recommendation if it’s based on data that is probably not completely accurate?
The research team from the university based their findings on how many people there were in the sample size group. They claim that all of the 124 studies would have had big enough sample sizes that the variable of chance would not have come into play. Chance is harder to come about in larger sample sizes, so it would be statistically unlikely that all of these studies had such overwhelming positive results. According to the researchers, only about 66 of the studies should have been positive. In actuality, though, 108 of those studies reported positive results. That’s an astounding and unrealistic 87 percent!
Mindfulness can still (and does) work for a lot of people, though. Accurate data should still be reported so that future patients trying this form of treatment can know what to expect. One solution to the problem is larger sample sizes. The team noted that trials which had a large number of participants did not skew results as much as smaller ones. Another idea is to have all studies registered, so that an outside group has to approve the research before it even begins. This will also force all of the results to be reported.
In the meantime, let’s all take a deep breath…