Transcendental meditation may help reduce burnout and depression among physicians


A recent study suggested that physicians who practiced the transcendental meditation (TM) technique had significant reductions in symptoms of burnout and depression.

The study, published in the Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, was led by Marie Loiselle, PhD, senior researcher at the Center for Social-Emotional Health at Maharishi International University in Fairfield, Iowa. TM, described by the study’s authors as a simple exercise where participants close their eyes for around 20 minutes and quiet their thoughts, has been shown to have beneficial effects on mental health. For this investigation, Loiselle and her team of researchers set out to discover whether TM could improve symptoms of depression and burnout among physicians.

Included in the study were 40 academic physicians. Participants were split into two groups. Physicians in the first group were assigned TM techniques to try over the course of a four-month trial period. Those in the second group were asked to go about their days as usual.

Researchers measured the physicians’ level of burnout, depression, insomnia, stress, and resilience using several different scales before the study, after one month, and at the end of the trial. Quantitative measurements were compared with qualitative interviews, which were conducted at baseline and then again after four months.

Results showed significant improvement in symptoms of burnout, emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment, and depression among those who practiced TM. Findings gathered from qualitative interviews supported quantitative outcomes. Overall, physicians who practiced TM reported relief from their previous symptoms of burnout and depression. Controls did not report significant changes.

According to the study’s authors, these results suggest that TM may be highly beneficial to physicians experiencing burnout and depression.

“Longevity in a career that will last 40 to 50 years requires a physician to embrace the ‘long-view’,” said Gregory Gruener, MD, study co-author and Vice Dean of Education at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago. “While knowledge, skills and attitude are fundamental, Transcendental Meditation provides the clarity of mind and calmness that makes this journey as enjoyable and fulfilling as the destination.”