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Transcendental Meditation Reduces Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress

April 09, 2013

Transcendental meditation substantially reduces symptoms of post-traumatic stress, according to a study in the online April 8 Journal of Traumatic Stress. Researchers examined the effects of the meditation technique on a group of refugees from the Congolese civil war.

"I was surprised to see how quickly TM practice had an effect on posttraumatic stress symptoms in these refugees, who had no home, no job, and very little support from their environment," said study author Fred Travis, PhD, Director for the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management Research Institute in Fairfield, Iowa.

The 21 refugees were matched with control participants based on age, gender, and severity of post-traumatic stress symptoms, and all participants completed the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist–Civilian (PCL-C) at baseline and at 30- and 135-day follow-ups.

Participants in the control group showed an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms from baseline through the posttest follow-ups, but participants in the transcendental meditation group significantly reduced their stress symptoms.

On average, PCL-C scores in the transcendental meditation group changed from 65, which indicates severe symptoms, to below 30 after participants practiced meditation for 30 days. This low score was maintained for 135 days. 

"We anticipated improvement, but I didn't expect this magnitude of change," said lead author Colonel Brian Rees, MD, MPH. "The continued improvement at four months also led us to conclude that transcendental meditation may be a very worthwhile intervention for anyone suffering from posttraumatic stress." 

—Lauren LeBano


1. Rees B, Travis F, Shapiro D, Chant R. Reduction in posttraumatic stress symptoms in Congolese refugees practicing transcendental meditation. J Trauma Stress. 8 April 2013;[Epub ahead of print].

2. Transcendental meditation significantly reduces posttraumatic stress in African refugees [press release]. Washington, DC: Eurekalert; April 9, 2013.

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