Evidence & Research


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Mental health

The Oxford Centre for Mindfulness has found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) prevents depression in the service users who have experienced recurrent depression.  For people who have experienced three or more previous episodes of depression, MBCT reduces the recurrence rate over 12 months by 40–50% compared with usual care. (Crane C et al, “The effects of amount of home meditation practice in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy on hazard of relapse to depression in the Staying Well after Depression Trial”, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2014).

MBCT is as effective at reducing recurrence as antidepressants (Williams et al, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: A randomized dismantling trial, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2013).  In the UK, the Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended MBCT in their Guidelines for Management of Depression (2004, 2009) for service users who have had three or more episodes of depression.

A recent randomized waitlist control trial (RCT) by the University of Surrey, School of Psychology evaluated the effect of the online MBCT Be Mindful course on depression, anxiety and perceived stress. Results published in the Journal ‘Mindfulness’ in May 2018 showed that participants who completed the course reported significantly lower levels of perceived stress, depression and anxiety. Be Mindful course completers enjoyed

  •  A 63% decrease in depression
  • A 58% reduction in anxiety
  • A 40% reduction in perceived stress

These effects were also maintained at the 3- & 6-month follow-up.  These outcomes rival those of studies which employed a group face-to-face mindfulness-based intervention.

An RCT from the University of Surrey (published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology) showed significant average reductions in work-related rumination, chronic fatigue and improvements in sleep quality for completers of the Be Mindful online course

  • A 25% decrease in rumination
  • A 26% reduction in fatigue
  • A 33% improved sleep quality

There is some early evidence from randomised controlled trials supporting the use of MBCT for health anxiety (McManus et al, “A randomized clinical trial of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy versus unrestricted services for health anxiety (hypochondriasis), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2012) and for adults on the autistic spectrum (Spek A.A. et al, “Mindfulness-based therapy in adults with an autism spectrum disorder: a randomized controlled trial”, Research in Developmental Disabilities 2013).

There is also promising evidence that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can be helpful in alleviating distress for young people experiencing depression and anxiety (Biegel G.M. et al, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for the treatment of adolescent psychiatric outpatients: A randomized clinical trial”, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2009).

Ongoing research

Mindfulness can be useful for people from all walks of life and the number of areas that mindfulness is being applied to is growing.

Physical health

One of the most important areas of research has been around the use of Mindfulness within the treatment of long-term physical health conditions. A review of 114 studies (Carlson L., “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for physical conditions: A narrative review evaluating levels of evidence”, International Scholarly Research Notices, 2012) found, in the context of poor physical health, consistent improvements in mental health and wellbeing, particularly reduced stress, anxiety and depression where a mindfulness-based intervention is used.


Mindfulness has proven to be effective for children and young people, with school-based interventions having positive outcomes on wellbeing: reducing anxiety and distress as well as improving behaviour, among other areas (K Weare “Developing mindfulness with children and young people: a review of the evidence and policy context”, Journal of Children’s Services, 2013). Evidence also suggests that children who used mindfulness practices more frequently reported higher wellbeing and lower stress scores (W Kuyken et al, “Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: non-randomised controlled feasibility study”, The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2013).

A successful Mindfulness in Schools project was set up in 2007 and is now being taught in 12 different countries. This nine-week course is especially designed for school students, whether they are dealing with exam stress, bullying, or seeking to enhance study skills. It’s being used to improve students’ wellbeing as well as helping them to learn and concentrate better.

Criminal justice

Mindfulness practice within criminal justice settings is currently being developed around the country. In HMP Brixton a “Mind/Body Workout Group” was established to help individuals to develop their own mindfulness practice. Evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness interventions in prisons has been gathered mainly in the USA; a study based in Massachusetts found significant improvements in hostility, self-esteem, and mood disturbance following a course of mindfulness (M Samuelson et al, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in Massachusetts Correctional Facilities”, The Prison Journal, 2007).


A limited amount of research into mindfulness during pregnancy has shown encouraging results on the positive impact of mindfulness, finding ‘significantly’ reduced anxiety (C Vieten and J Astin, “Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention during pregnancy on prenatal stress and mood: results of a pilot study”, Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 2008).


Mindfulness in the workplace has been popularised by a number of global companies including Google. However, among smaller businesses mindfulness is not yet widespread. There is growing evidence, shown by initial studies, that mindfulness in the workplace can have a number of positive effects. These include a decrease in perceived stress (Wolever, R et al “Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: A randomized controlled trial,” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2012), and an increase in better concentration levels including memory tasks and multi-tasking (Levy, D M et al, “Initial results from a study of the effects of meditation on multitasking performance”, Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, 2011).


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