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Toby Dore', PhD, ATC, LAT – Associate Professor, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Gerggory Davis, PhD – Associate Professor, University of Louisiana at Lafayette


Numerous studies have concluded that regular mediation practice has had a significant effect on cortisol levels. PURPOSE: To investigate the potential effects of regular meditation on both acute and long-term stress and anxiety levels in University students. METHODS: 12 participants (5 men and 7 women) participated in the study. The subjects were randomly divided into two groups, a meditation group (group 1) and a non-meditation group (group 2). Ages of the participants ranged from 18-23 years old. All participants provided a pre- and post- cortisol saliva sample between the hours of 0600 and 0800 and completed GAD-7 survey to assess anxiety. On the initial day of testing, group 1 was required to participate in a 10-minute guided mediation session during the time between the cortisol sampling. Over the course of a 15-week semester, the participants in group 1 were required to participate in bi-weekly meditation sessions ranging from 10-25 minutes in duration while the participants in group 2 were required to meet bi-weekly for 10 -25 minutes and sit quietly. During the week prior to final exams, both groups were again required to participate in the GAD - 7 survey and provide an additional saliva sample. Cortisol was analyzed using a commercially available ELISA. Results are presented as mean ± SEM. RESULTS: Cortisol levels for group 1 were 0.10 ± 0.03 µg/dL pre-intervention, 0.07 ± 0.02 µg/dL post-acute intervention, and 0.09 ± 0.03 µg/dL post-15 week intervention. Cortisol levels in group 2 were 0.27 ± 0.11 µg/dL, 0.06 ± 0.03 µg/dL post-acute intervention and 0.05 ± 0.02 µg/dL post-15-week intervention. A repeated measures ANOVA did not reveal a significant effect for treatment (F =0.53; p = 0.49), time (F = 1.10; p = 0.38), or an interaction (F =0.77; p = 0.50). GAD-7 scores for group 1 were 8.75 ± 1.38 pre-intervention and 7.4 ± 1.86 post-15-week intervention while GAD-7 scores for group 2 were 9.0 ± 2.50 pre-intervention and 6.17 ± 1.80 post-15-week intervention. A repeated measures ANOVA did not reveal a significant effect for treatment (F = 0.28; p = 0.62), time (F = 0.56; p = 0.48), or an interaction (F = 2.76; p = 0.15). CONCLUSIONS: Neither an acute bout of meditation nor a fifteen-week bi-weekly meditation intervention was effective in affecting anxiety or salivary cortisol levels in college aged-men and women, likely due to the low initial values of these parameters. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: If men and women initially display low levels of stress or anxiety, acute or chronic meditation is unlikely to induce any significant physiological changes associated with decreases in stress or anxiety. Meditation may still provide psychological benefits in this population and physiological benefits may be realized among participants with higher initial stress or anxiety.


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