Mindfulness in Young People: Is It Really Effective?

After the dramatic rise of mindfulness over the past decade, much research has been generated to test its effectiveness in a growing number of areas on the physical and mental health of human beings.

Thus, mindfulness has spread from the original medical practice (application in patients with chronic pain and cancer) to different aspects of psychology, such as clinic, organization / business, education or those related to the field of sport, mainly.

Focus on the area of ​​education and the application of Mindfulness techniques in children and adolescentsLet us see how the effectiveness of this type of intervention can be verified by presenting the results obtained from two recent meta-analysis works.

    What is a meta-analysis?

    A meta-analysis is scientific and statistical work that brings together a large group of research on the same subject in order to analyze them together. Thus, one could say that a meta-analysis would be tantamount to a review of all published literature which, by way of summary, compares the scientific rigor of all studies in their entirety.

    For that, the validity and reliability of a meta-analysis is very high and provides data with greater consistency, greater statistical power, and greater precision with respect to all variables likely to play a significant role in the results because the experimental population samples (the groups of subjects concerned) are very broad.

    In addition, it makes it possible to observe whether there are methodological questions in the studies that may condition the data obtained there.

    The effectiveness of mindfulness on young people

    Here are the results of the two indicated meta-analyzes, found in recent databases, both of international origin (Germany and USA respectively). on the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in children and youth.

      Interventions based on total attention in schools

      In the meta-analysis developed by Zenner et al. (2014) used the selection of publications produced in 12 databases and contact with personalities in the field concerned. 24 surveys were carried outOf which 13 were published and 9 of them had comparative measurements between the experimental group and the control group. Thus, the sample relating to the first group amounted to 1348 students and that of the second to 876 students.

      The comparative analysis of this work was complex because the methodology, the objectives and the data analysis carried out for each of them were very heterogeneous. Out of an initial total of 42 works initially found, the following inclusion criteria were applied for the meta-analysis:

      • interventions they were based on mindfulness content.
      • The program was implemented at the school.
      • Students belong to courses between grades 1 and 12.
      • The results presented were quantitative.

      After applying these criteria, 24 of the 42 original articles were selected. The components that made up the interventions carried out in the 24 finalist studies mainly included: breathing observation, psychoeducation and group discussions. The domains that were assessed together were cognitive performance, emotional issues, stress and coping, and resilience.


      The results launched a strongly positive correlation in the increase in academic performance; moderately significant (although sufficiently significant) in terms of resilience and stress reduction; weak but significant correlation of the variable of resilience; and small and not significant for measures of emotional problems.

      Thus, this review concludes that the greatest benefits occur in the cognitive domain although it also appears to influence (with less intensity) the level of stress, to cope with and recover from adverse situations.

      Assessment of the quality of the study

      Regarding the evaluation of the scientific rigor indicated by the researchers, among the strengths of this review we can underline the scope of research of the work carried out on this subject to date, the use of databases and criteria of inclusion allowed an exhaustive and complete compilation of the existing publications up to the start date of the meta-analysis.

      Finally, the text proposes the need to carry out interventions with teaching staff in order to provide them with the necessary training on these contents and thus facilitate greater integration of students benefiting from these Mindfulness programs.

      However, with reference to the limitations of the same, the editors of the text point out the heterogeneity between the studies included in the review, so the results of these should be taken as a guide. Thus, the implementation and the typology of the specific contents of each of the mindfulness-based interventions that have been carried out in each of the schools present insufficient uniformity, which makes a completely objective comparison difficult.

      Finally, it is also underlined that the samples that make up the studies reviewed are not very largeIt follows therefore that the results are provisional and should be supported by further evaluations.

        Mindfulness interventions with young people: a meta-analysis

        In the work of Zoogman et al. (2014) is the first to shed light on the review of studies published between 2004 and 2011 in which comprehensive care programs were implemented in the population in the vital stages of youth (Under 18).

        Prior to the presentation of the results obtained, it is necessary to highlight the data provided in the introductory part of the text since they summarize at a quantitative level the state of development of research on Mindfulness in children and / or the juvenile. More precisely, the authors mention that there are few studies which took as an experimental sample subjects in adolescence without clinical diagnosis.

        Thus, studies that have attempted to test the effectiveness of mindfulness in this age group have been based on groups with learning difficulties and various disabilities. In addition, it is stated that the most studied age group covers from kindergarten to high school, focusing on the school population.

        In contrast, the most popular variables in the publications analyzed concern school exercise, social skills (Beauchemin et al. 2008), level of stress and anxiety (Liehr and Diaz 2010), depression (Mendelson et al. ., 2010), aggressive behavior (Singh et al. 2011a, b) and substance abuse (Bootzin and Stevens 2005; Britton et al. 2010).


        The texts were extracted, in this case, from articles in an English-speaking magazine. After filtering the work through inclusion criteria, 20 surveys were selected, in which it was not possible to discriminate according to the different sub-populations due to the scarcity of data collected so far. The objectives of this meta-analysis are to assess:

        • What is the general effect of the interventions based on full attention among young people?
        • What moderating factors of treatment (Structure, recipients, clinical / non-clinical sample, duration of treatment, frequency of sessions, etc.) are they the most effective?
        • Do youWhat results and what level of efficiency was it obtained in the target sample (psychological symptoms, attention, general functioning of the individual) after the intervention with full attention?


        The results of statistical data analysis procedures show that the interventions based on the full attention studied in the young population present a small effect compared to the effectiveness of other alternative interventions, Although they considerably exceed the effect of the control groups considered.

        When clinical samples were observed, the effect was considered moderate and tripled in non-clinical samples. All of this seems to indicate that all the attention it may be particularly beneficial in clinical populations.

        Only one variable was substantial and provided relevant results: clinical sample vs. at the clinic; others such as frequency, duration, frequency of sessions, sample age, sample size, sample sex, etc., have not published differential data. It was, however, found to have a substantial effect on measures of psychological symptoms presented, much greater than on other types of outcomes such as attention or general functioning of the individual, etc.

        However, meta-analysis indicates that meditation has specifically been shown to be effective. in the ability to concentrate in adolescents (For example Baijal et al., 2011 among many others), although in this review no significant correlation was found between the two variables, as happened with the clinical symptomatology variable. However, the small number of publications included in the meta-analysis and their heterogeneity indicate that the result should be evaluated with caution.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Zenner, C., Herrnleben-Kurz S. and Walach, H. (2014). Mindfulness-based interventions in schools: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Institute for Transcultural Health Studies, Viadrina European University, Frankfurt Oder (Germany). June 2014 | Volume 5 | Article 603, Frontiers in psychology.
        • Zoogman, Goldberg SB, Hoyt, WT & Miller, L. (2014) Mindful Interventions with Youth: A Meta-Analysis. Mindfulness, Springer Science (New York).

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