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Dissertation excerpt: STRESS REACTIVITY, HEALTH, AND MEDITATION: A Path Analytic Approach

Following is the conclusion section of my dissertation. The dissertation itself is currently in preparation for publication.

The present study found some meaningful relationships between meditation variables, stress reactivity, and health variables. Stress reactivity was strongly negatively correlated with several physical and mental health variables. Stress reactivity was also shown to be more strongly associated with recent meditation and health variables than were total stress or number of stressors. Overall, the present study found that stress reactivity is a meaningful variable in ongoing efforts to understand the meditation’s mechanisms of action.

Recent meditation appeared to be more important to stress reactivity than was lifetime meditation experience. Additionally, recent meditation was significantly associated with vitality and mental health, whereas lifetime meditation experience was not; implications of this for MBSR research include the importance of continued mindfulness meditation practice to maintaining positive health outcomes. The notion of trying to effect change in perceived stress by altering meditation habits was bolstered by the path analysis results. It is recommended that future research explore ways to effect patients’ continued regular meditation practice after completion of MBSR.

This study has been a first step in investigating questions involving stress reactivity and meditation. A clear next step involves testing some of the relationships found in the present study in a clinical study of a meditation-based clinical intervention. Such research could eliminate remaining questions from the present study due to the sample’s limited range of the education level and baseline health status variables. Further research could also investigate the possible mediating role of stress reactivity in the relationship between completion of a meditation-based treatment and healthful outcome. Additionally, future research on stress reactivity could investigate the role of neuroticism or other relevant personality variables.

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