Mindfulness meditation research: issues of participant screening, safety procedures, and researcher training

Adv Mind Body Med. Spring 2009;24(1):20-30.


Increasing interest in mindfulness meditation (MM) warrants discussion of research safety. Side effects of meditation with possible adverse reactions are reported in the literature. Yet participant screening procedures, research safety guidelines, and standards for researcher training have not been developed and disseminated in the MM field of study. The goal of this paper is to summarize safety concerns of MM practice and offer scholars some practical tools to use in their research. For example, we offer screener schematics aimed at determining the contraindication status of potential research participants. Moreover, we provide information on numerous MM training options. Ours is the first presentation of this type aimed at helping researchers think through the safety and training issues presented herein. Support for our recommendations comes from consulting 17 primary publications and 5 secondary reports/literature reviews of meditation side effects. Mental health consequences were the most frequently reported side effects, followed by physical health then spiritual health consequences. For each of these categories of potential adverse effects, we offer MM researchers methods to assess the relative risks of each as it pertains to their particular research programs.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Biomedical Research / education
  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Humans
  • Meditation / methods
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Mind-Body Therapies / adverse effects*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Research Personnel / education*
  • Spirituality