Prevalence, patterns, and predictors of meditation use among US adults: A nationally representative survey


Compared to non-users, those who had used meditation in the past 12 months were more likely to be 40–64 years, female, non-Hispanic White, living in the West, at least college-educated, not in a relationship, diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions, smoking, consuming alcohol and physically active.
— Read on

This is from a extremely large survey of meditators, over 45,000. It was from 2016, so it is probably still relatively accurate. This blurb above jumped out at me. It sounds a bit like the description of a depressed person. Multiple substance use, chronically ill, and not in a relationship. Very possibly experiencing loneliness. This suggests to me that a lot of the drive to meditate is akin to various forms of self medication. It appears regular meditation is not widely adopted by generally healthy people who are interested in things like peak performance, self actualization, or ego transcendence. I’m suspect this is partly because some of the recent interest in meditation was stimulated by work that came from a medical perspective, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction.

I’m not suggesting that meditation is without value for otherwise healthy people. In fact, I think it’s greatest value is preventive and not therapeutic. There’s abundant evidence that regular meditation reduces ones biological age to the point where meditators appear and feel and can be shown via various laboratory measures to be about 10 years younger than non-meditators, all else being equal.

My point is that meditation appears to be less likely to be adopted over the long term as part of an optimal health program. I also suspect there is a hard ceiling on how many people in Western culture will ever adopt meditation as a regular practice. However, there is evidence that Christian-based prayer and contemplation stimulate the same parts of the brain and yield the same benefits as meditation:

As many readers probably know, there is some evidence that has been misconstrued as the healing benefits of prayer proving divine intervention. In my opinion, it is more likely that the brain is relatively agnostic and when one repeats a prayer regularly  with belief and faith, the effect is the same as repeating a mantra regularly with belief and faith. Given the high level of belief in the Christian God and even the Christian heaven and hell in the United States, it is arguable that promoting a Christian prayer and contemplation-based approach to cultivating a healthy mind maybe more widely adopted (and thus yield better results for society as a whole) than the promotion of secular or eastern meditation techniques. The tricky part, of course, is how to celebrate and promote the method separate from from the dogmatic trappings of any specific religion.