Australian Journal of Primary Health Australian Journal of Primary Health Society
The issues influencing community health services and primary health care

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with chronic diseases

Monika Merkes

Australian Institute for Primary Care, Faculty of Health Sciences Building 2, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Vic. 3086, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Primary Health 16(3) 200-210
Published: 6 September 2010


Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a structured group program that uses mindfulness meditation to improve well-being and alleviate suffering. This article reviews the impact of MBSR for people with chronic diseases. The review includes original research that was published in English and peer-reviewed and reported outcomes for adults with chronic diseases who had participated in an MBSR program. Fifteen studies were identified. Outcomes related to mental and physical health, well-being, and quality of life. The studies included different research designs, and used self-report and physiological outcome measures. Participants’ clinical diagnoses included fibromyalgia, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, and cardiovascular diagnoses. All 15 studies found that participation in an MBSR program resulted in improvements. No negative change was reported between baseline and follow up. Outcomes in regard to specific variables were difficult to compare and equivocal. Overall, positive change predominated. Chronic diseases are associated with a range of unwelcome psychological and physical consequences. Participation in an MBSR program is likely to result in coping better with symptoms, improved overall well-being and quality of life, and enhanced health outcomes. As an adjunct to standard care, MBSR has potential for much wider application in Australian primary care settings.

Additional keywords: chronic illness, mind–body approaches, mindfulness meditation.


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