Objective: Kindness-based meditation (KBM) is a rubric covering meditation techniques developed to elicit kindness in a conscious way. Some techniques, for example, loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation, have been included in programs aimed at improving health and well-being. Our aim was to systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence available from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effects of KBM on health and well-being against passive and active control groups in patients and the general population.
Method: Searches were completed in March 2013. Two reviewers applied predetermined eligibility criteria (RCTs, peer-reviewed publications, theses or conference proceedings, adult participants, KBM interventions) and extracted the data. Meta-analyses used random-effects models.
Results: Twenty-two studies were included. KBM was moderately effective in decreasing self-reported depression (standard mean difference [Hedges's g] = -0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] [-1.08, -0.14]) and increasing mindfulness (Hedges's g = 0.63, 95% CI [0.22, 1.05]), compassion (Hedges's g = 0.61, 95% CI [0.24, 0.99]) and self-compassion (Hedges's g = 0.45, 95% CI [0.15, 0.75]) against passive controls. Positive emotions were increased (Hedges's g = 0.42, 95% CI [0.10, 0.75]) against progressive relaxation. Exposure to KBM may initially be challenging for some people. RESULTS were inconclusive for some outcomes, in particular against active controls. The methodological quality of the reports was low to moderate. RESULTS suffered from imprecision due to wide CIs deriving from small studies.
Conclusions: KBM showed evidence of benefits for the health of individuals and communities through its effects on well-being and social interaction. Further research including well-conducted large RCTs is warranted.