Objectives: Relatively little is known about who uses various types of meditation or how health problems and health care barriers might simultaneously impact its use. This article describes the current prevalence of meditation and identifies significant individual and health system-related factors associated with its use. Design: Cross-sectional descriptive analysis of the 2017 National Health Interview Survey analyzed in 2019. Setting/Location: United States. Subjects: The adult, civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population. Outcome measures: Self-reported use of any type of meditation in past year (mantra, mindfulness, spiritual, guided imagery, and progressive relaxation) or as part of yoga or t'ai chi practice. Control variables included demographic characteristics, health status, risk behaviors, and health system-related factors (self-reported barriers and facilitators to health care access) hypothesized to be associated with greater meditation use. Results: Over 46 million people (19% of the adult, civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population) currently practice some type of meditation. Three main factors predict meditation use: the presence of a health problem (chronic disease, pain, anxiety/depression, and sleeping problems), cost or access barriers to conventional medical care, and individual characteristics (younger age, female sex, and sexual minority status). Conclusions: Meditation is one of the most common forms of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States today. While its health benefits are still emerging, public health practitioners and clinicians should be aware of the increasing use of these therapies to treat common health problems, their relatively low prevalence among some groups that might benefit from them (such as older people, those with less healthy lifestyles, and men), and their higher use among those who face barriers to obtaining conventional care.
Keywords: complementary and alternative medicine; health care access; meditation.