Mindfulness-based stress reduction for GPs: results of a controlled mixed methods pilot study in Dutch primary care

Br J Gen Pract. 2016 Feb;66(643):e99-105. doi: 10.3399/bjgp16X683497.


Background: Burnout is highly prevalent in GPs and can have a negative influence on their wellbeing, performance, and patient care. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may be an effective intervention to decrease burnout symptoms and increase wellbeing.

Aim: To gain insight into the feasibility and effectiveness of MBSR on burnout, empathy, and (work-related) wellbeing in GPs.

Design and setting: A mixed methods pilot study, including a waiting list-controlled pre-/post-study and a qualitative study of the experiences of participating GPs in the Netherlands.

Method: Participants were sent questionnaires assessing burnout, work engagement, empathy, and mindfulness skills, before and at the end of the MBSR training/waiting period. Qualitative data on how GPs experienced the training were collected during a plenary session and with evaluation forms at the end of the course.

Results: Fifty Dutch GPs participated in this study. The MBSR group reported a greater decrease in depersonalisation than the control group (adjusted difference -1.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] = -2.72 to -0.21, P = 0.03). Dedication increased more significantly in the MBSR group than in the control group (adjusted difference 2.17, 95% CI = 0.51 to 3.83, P = 0.01). Mindfulness skills increased significantly in the MBSR group compared with the control group (adjusted difference 6.90, 95% CI = 1.42 to 12.37, P = 0.01). There was no significant change in empathy. The qualitative data indicated that the MBSR course increased their wellbeing and compassion towards themselves and others, including their patients.

Conclusion: The study shows that MBSR for GPs is feasible and might result in fewer burnout symptoms and increased work engagement and wellbeing. However, an adequately powered randomised controlled trial is needed to confirm the study's findings.

Keywords: burnout, professional; empathy; general practice; general practitioners; mindfulness.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Physicians, Primary Care / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / rehabilitation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome