Gender Differences in Prevalence, Patterns, Purposes, and Perceived Benefits of Meditation Practices in the United States

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2019 Feb;28(2):135-142. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7178. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


Introduction: Meditation is a common type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and the evidence for its usefulness for health promotion is growing. Women have higher rates of overall CAM use than men do, but little is known about gender differences in meditation practices, reasons for use, or perceived benefits.

Methods: Data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) were used. The NHIS design is a multistage probability sample representative of US adults aged ≥18 (n = 34,342). Design-based F-test and logistic regression were used; all analyses were weighted and were performed in 2017-2018.

Results: Overall, 10.3% of women and 5.2% of men reported using some type of meditation in the past year (p < 0.001). Among meditators, a higher percentage of women used meditation with yoga, tai chi, or qi gong, but men were more likely to use specific types of stand-alone practices (e.g., mindfulness) than women (p < 0.001 for each type). The most common reason reported for using meditation was to reduce stress (35%). Although women and men reported similar reasons for meditating, there were gender differences in the prevalence of some reasons. Both men and women perceived meditation to be helpful (90% and 94%, respectively).

Conclusions: There are gender differences in prevalence, purpose, and perceived benefits of using meditation. US adults aged ≥18 use meditation and find it helpful. Although currently less prevalent among men, providers can consider meditation as a tool for health promotion in both men and women.

Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; gender; meditation; mind–body; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Young Adult