Setting aside the benefits to your health, how much might you (and society at large) save financially on healthcare by regular practice of Transcendental Meditation? The question takes on urgency in these times of spiraling health costs, and fortunately it has been studied.
In the 1980s, David Orme-Johnson studied health data over a five-year period from 1,450 members (the numbers varied from year to year, so this number is an average) of SCI health insurance, a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan that insured only people who had practiced TM for at least six months and who promised to continue. The meditators were compared with a database of 600,000 people insured under different plans by the same carrier. The groups were matched for many demographic variables such as age, gender, and terms of insurance.
Health Profile of Meditators: Less Inpatient Days, Less Hospital Admissions
The health profile of meditators was vastly superior — and their use of health services dramatically lower. For example, meditators who were children (eighteen or younger) and young adults (nineteen to thirty-nine) had only half the number of inpatient days compared with age-matched controls. For older adults, this decrease was even greater (just under 70 percent fewer inpatient days). Outpatient visits followed a similar pattern.
When the meditators were compared with members of five other insurance groups, similar results emerged. Hospital admissions were lower in meditators for many different illness categories, including heart disease (87 percent less), diseases of the nervous system (83 percent), benign or malignant tumors (55 percent), mental illness (31 percent), and infectious diseases (30 percent).
Although intriguing, these data hardly prove that TM per se made the difference. For example, people who practice TM may be more likely to pursue healthy habits (such as a diet low in animal fat) and avoid unhealthy ones (such as drinking and smoking). So TM may well account for only part of the meditator’s good health. On the other hand, by reducing stress, TM may help people choose healthier habits, thereby compounding its beneficial effects. In any event, Orme- Johnson’s data are certainly consistent with the well-documented health benefits of TM.
Saving Healthcare Money: 55% Less Expenditure for Meditators
How much healthcare money could be saved if TM were widely practiced? That is a question that Robert Herron, a researcher associated with Maharishi University, asked in a retrospectively controlled study using fourteen years of medical expense data from about 2,800 people enrolled in Quebec’s provincial health insurance plan. Half of these people (the meditators) learned TM at some point along the way, whereas the other half (the controls) did not. Monthly payments to doctors were adjusted to account for age, inflation, and other potentially confounding factors.
Before learning TM, meditators and controls had similar medical costs. After learning the TM technique, however, doctors’ fees dropped steadily for the meditators while they kept rising for the controls (as you would expect with increasing age). After six years, the gap between the two groups was 55 percent — highly significant.
A FEW MODEST SUGGESTIONS
Based on the enormous potential savings in health costs, I suggest that TM training and follow-up should be offered without charge by health insurance companies purely in their own self-interest. Until that Utopia arrives, most interested people would do well to get the training at their own expense. For most people, the cost will soon be repaid — not only by improved health and quality of life, but also financially.
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In my opinion, the time is right to extend the research on TM beyond cardiology and into immunology, cancer, and aging. Perhaps some medical or psychology student reading this will be bitten by the research bug and pursue these areas. Another field ripe for research is the effect of TM on the brain (and mind).
In closing, please consider the words of Hans Selye, the father of stress research:
It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation
by Norman E. Rosenthal.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA). ©2011. www.us.PenguinGroup.com.
About the Author
Dr. Norman Rosenthal pioneered the use of light therapy in the treatment of SAD, or “winter blues”, during his career as an award-winning researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA. He has conducted extensive research into disorders of mood, sleep and biological rhythms, resulting in over 200 scholarly publications. He has recently suggested the use of Transcendental Meditation for the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions. He is the author or co-author of five popular books, including Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation, Winter Blues, The Emotional Revolution, St. John’s Wort and How to Beat Jet Lag. For more information please see http://normanrosenthal.com.