Gender Influence on the Effectiveness and Feasibility of Mindfulness and Meditation Interventions: A Scoping Review

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Meditation and mindfulness therapies have gained ground as promising treatments for a range of afflictions. However, little is known about the role of gender in determining barriers, experience, and effectiveness of meditation. This review aims to consolidate current research that explores the relationships between gender and meditation. Searches were conducted in PubMed, PsychInfo, and Web of Science. Eligible studies were included if: (1) treatment is specifically and exclusively meditation or mind-body therapy, (2) qualitative or quantitative differences between genders or lack of differences are described, (3) study population comprised of greater than 15 adult subjects with at least 20 percent representation from each gender, and (4) studies were published between 2000 and 2020 in English peer-reviewed journals. From a total of 998 citations, 25 articles met inclusion criteria. Studies measured the effectiveness of meditation interventions to improve stress reduction, addiction treatment, mental health, cardiovascular measures, lifestyle adjustments, and cognitive function. Mixed evidence exists for the presence of a greater benefit to stress reduction and symptom alleviation for women practicing meditation compared to men. Research is lacking in clear definitions of meditation and mindfulness, making the identification of key variables affecting gender differences challenging. Future studies should explore the role of the environmental context of meditation in creating gendered effects. More research is needed to investigate the experiences of sexual minorities and other special populations with meditation.