Student stress continues to rise in high schools and on college campuses. A recent UCLA survey of entering college freshman reported a decline in good or above-average high school emotional health levels due to stress, the lowest level within the past 25 years. A new study published in the Journal of Instructional Psychology found the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique significantly decreased psychological distress in public school students.
The new study1, conducted with at-risk minority secondary school students, showed a 36 percent reduction in overall psychological distress. Significant decreases were also found in trait anxiety and depressive symptoms.
Dr. Charles Elder, M.D., lead author of the TM study, and investigator at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, emphasized the important implications of the findings on reduced stress.
“It is vital that we start addressing the high levels of emotional stress being reported by high school and college students. Decreased stress can have a positive impact on mental health, and can also reduce the risk for hypertension, obesity, and diabetes—major risk factors for heart disease.”
A total of 106 secondary school students, 87 percent racial and ethnic minorities, took part in the study. Results showed that over a four-month period, students practicing Transcendental Meditation as part of their schools’ Quiet Time program exhibited significant reductions in psychological distress factors compared to controls.
Educational research has also linked student stress to negative school behavior and poor academic performance.
The study’s researchers focused on middle school students for a specific purpose. Their research points out that public schools in the United States have undergone significant reform efforts, with middle school education being a particular area of focus. Previous research found a steady decline in academic achievement occurring in our nation’s middle schools. During these formative years, middle school academic achievement determines whether a student will graduate from high school or drop out—a major factor in a young person’s life.
“These new findings on reduced stress, along with the recent research2 on academic achievement gains, hold tremendous promise for public education,” said Sanford Nidich, EdD, principal investigator, and professor of education at Maharishi University of Management. “There is a growing body of evidence showing Transcendental Meditation to be an easy to implement, value-added educational program that promotes emotional health and increases academic achievement in at-risk students.”
According to James Dierke, 2008 National Association of Secondary School Principals—National Middle School Principal of the Year:
“Stress is the number one enemy of public education, especially in inner-city schools. It creates tension, violence, and compromises the cognitive and psychological capacity of students to learn and grow. The TM/Quiet Time program is the most powerful, effective program I have come across in my 39 years as a public school educator for addressing this problem. It is nourishing children and providing them an immensely valuable tool for life. It is saving lives.”
The study was supported by the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.
• This study evaluated change in psychological distress factors in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation program compared to non-meditating controls. A total of 106 students (68 meditating and 38 non-meditating students), took part in the study. The study included students from four public secondary schools.
• Eighty-seven percent were racial and ethnic minority students, including 26% Hispanic, 25% African American, and 19% American Indian.
• The TM technique was practiced in class twice a day as part of the schools’ “Quiet Time” program for four months prior to post-testing.
• Compared to eyes-closed rest, research has found that Transcendental Meditation practice is characterized by decreased activation or arousal of the autonomic nervous system, as reflected in decreased breath rate and lower sympathetic nervous system activity. Regular practice of the TM technique has been shown to increase electroencephalographic (EEG) brain integration and coherence, especially in the frontal area of the brain, responsible for higher-order processing.
• Other published research on high school and college students has shown reduced psychological distress, improved positive coping ability, decreased blood pressure, reduced cardiovascular reactivity to stressful stimuli, reduced absenteeism, and decreased school suspensions.
1. Reduced Psychological Distress in Racial and Ethnic Minority Students Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Program (Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, pages 109–116, June 2011, published November 2011)
2. Academic achievement and transcendental meditation: a study with at-risk urban middle school students (Education, Vol. 131, No. 3, pages 556–564, Spring 2011). For a link to this research study, CLICK HERE.
Source: EurekAlert! Transcendental Meditation effective antidote to record stress levels in school students.
Struggling students find TM improves academic achievement: New research