Does Prior Experience with Mindfulness Affect Well-Being and Stress?

Meghan R. Conlin

Massachusetts General Hospital
Does Prior Experience with Mindfulness Affect Well-Being and Stress?

Scientific Abstract

Background: Mindfulness can be associated with an increase in well-being and decrease in stress in individuals with mood disorders. However, there is little research on how prior mindfulness practices might affect these relationships. This investigation aimed to examine the relationship between prior mindfulness practices with perceived well-being and stress.

Methods: We randomized 2117 participants to the Healthy Mind Healthy You study, a large-scale, multi-site intervention that compared a standard 8-session mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program to a brief 3-session mindfulness intervention. The current investigation focused on a subset of participants who self-reported a mood disorder or are caregivers for individuals with a mood disorder (n = 126). Participants either did (n=56) or did not (n=70) self-report prior experiences with mindfulness. A one-way, between-subjects’ ANOVA was used to compare previous experiences with mindfulness with well-being (World Health Organization Five Well-Being Index; WHO-5) and perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale; PSS) at baseline.

Results: Participants were 88.1% female, 84.9% white, and 91.3% non-Hispanic with ages ranging from 21 to 89 (M = 49.4, SD = 15.3). We found no group differences on the WHO-5 (F (1, 125) = 0.16, p = 0.69) or the PSS (F (1, 125) = 0.26, p = 0.61), or overall wellness; perceived stress did not differ between those who practiced mindfulness prior to the study versus those who did not.

Conclusions: Contrary to our hypothesis, we found that prior experience with mindfulness was not associated with higher self-reported well-being and lower perceived stress. Our findings were limited by the high proportion of participants who were female and white. Future research is needed to understand how prior experience with mindfulness may be associated with well-being and stress in a more diverse population.

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research Areas


Meghan R. Conlin, Evan A. Albury, BA, Nevita George, BA, Ellexa R. Menezes, Sarah H. Salem, Douglas Katz, PhD, Louisa G. Silvia, PhD, Andrew A. Nierenberg, MD

Principal Investigator

Andrew A. Nierenberg, M.D.