Decreased Symptoms of Depression After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: Potential Moderating Effects of Religiosity, Spirituality, Trait Mindfulness, Sex, and Age
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OBJECTIVE: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a secular meditation training program that reduces depressive symptoms. Little is known, however, about the degree to which a participant's spiritual and religious background, or other demographic characteristics associated with risk for depression, may affect the effectiveness of MBSR. Therefore, this study tested whether individual differences in religiosity, spirituality, motivation for spiritual growth, trait mindfulness, sex, and age affect MBSR effectiveness. METHODS: As part of an open trial, multiple regression was used to analyze variation in depressive symptom outcomes among 322 adults who enrolled in an 8-week, community-based MBSR program. RESULTS: As hypothesized, depressive symptom severity decreased significantly in the full study sample (d=0.57; p<0.01). After adjustment for baseline symptom severity, moderation analyses revealed no significant differences in the change in depressive symptoms following MBSR as a function of spirituality, religiosity, trait mindfulness, or demographic variables. Paired t tests found consistent, statistically significant (p<0.01) reductions in depressive symptoms across all subgroups by religious affiliation, intention for spiritual growth, sex, and baseline symptom severity. After adjustment for baseline symptom scores, age, sex, and religious affiliation, a significant proportion of variance in post-MBSR depressive symptoms was uniquely explained by changes in both spirituality (β=-0.15; p=0.006) and mindfulness (β=-0.17; p<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that MBSR, a secular meditation training program, is associated with improved depressive symptoms regardless of affiliation with a religion, sense of spirituality, trait level of mindfulness before MBSR training, sex, or age. Increases in both mindfulness and daily spiritual experiences uniquely explained improvement in depressive symptoms.