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A quarter of people who meditate suffer ‘unpleasant’ experiences

Men are more likely to report bad experiences

One in four people have suffered unpleasant experiences while meditating, including feelings of fear and anxiety, research shows.

Men were more likely to report a bad experience than women, according to the University College London (UCL) research published in PLOS ONE.

Lead author, Marco Schlosser, a psychiatry researcher at UCL, said the findings point to the importance of widening the public and scientific understanding of meditation beyond that of a health-promoting technique.

“Very little is known about why, when, and how such meditation-related difficulties can occur: more research is now needed to understand the nature of these experiences,” he added.

The 1,232 participants in the study answered the following question: “Have you ever had any particularly unpleasant experiences (e.g. anxiety, fear, distorted emotions or thoughts, altered sense of self or the world), which you think may have been caused by your meditation practice?”

Of the participants, one in four (25.6%) indicated that they had previously encountered particularly unpleasant meditation-related experiences.

Male participants were more likely to have a bad experience (28.5%), compared to 23% of female participants.

Religious people were less likely to have unpleasant experiences with just one in five (20.3%) having a bad experience compared to 29.2% who were not religious, according to the study reported by the Daily Mail.

“Most research on meditation has focussed on its benefits, however, the range of meditative experiences studied by scientists needs to be expanded,” said Schlosser. “It is important at this point not to draw premature conclusions about the potential negative effects of meditation.”