Mindfulness therapy on the NHS

May 10, 2014, 12:47 PM GMT+0

When asked, British people tend to think mindfulness-based therapy should be available on the NHS – but they are less sure that it can make you healthier

‘Mindfulness’ has had a 75-fold increase in newspaper mentions since 2004. The ancient Buddhist meditative state, achieved through intense concentration on one’s own thought processes and bodily sensations, has moved from Eastern hippiedom to the mainstream. Some research suggests it can reduce the risk of relapse in depressed patients, and it is even being recommended by financial firms in the City of London to treat stress.

New YouGov research reveals a surprising lack of scepticism to the alternative treatment.

Specifically for the treatment of depression, people tend by 45-25% to support mindfulness-based therapy being available on the NHS. 25% oppose and 30% are not sure.

The idea has been proposed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who say that mindfulness therapy cuts relapse rates in half for serious sufferers of depression.

Women, who support the idea by 51-21%, are more receptive to the idea than men, who support it by 38-29%.

On the broader claim that mindfulness can make you healthier, however, people are more uncertain. 39% say it can probably improve health while 29% say it probably cannot.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as "A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique." While the technique is still considered alternative, the comedian Tim Minchin has an illustrative saying: “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.”