In this article from Scientific American, the headline is “Mindfulness Training for Teens Fails Important Test”. This is the worst kind of sensationalized click-bait, and it’s shameful for Scientific American to resort in using it.
What is buried near the bottom of the article is this critical information:
“Before we reject mindfulness for adolescents altogether, it is important to consider a few limitations of the study. The traditional MBSR training that has been effective in reducing depression and anxiety in adults involves 20 to 26 hours of formal training, including one 6-hour session, 8 weekly 2-hour sessions, and daily 45 min practice sessions at home. By contrast, because the training offered by Johnson and colleagues was adapted to fit the school schedule, the sessions lasted only 35-60 minutes each, for a total of 4.5 – 8 hours of training. Johnson and colleagues also shortened the initial introductory session, which is designed to help participants understand why mindfulness can be beneficial. The participants also reported very low compliance rates with home practice (26 percent during the 8-week training period and 13 percent at follow up). All of this may well have undercut the potential benefits, and it is possible that a more intensive training intervention, with consistent home practice, could yield better results.”
Let’s be clear about this: the study itself fails to follow the program it’s attempting to examine by delivering one third of the formal training, and a quarter of the home practice. Equating this to surgery, this is like condemning kidney surgery in which the patient didn’t recover when they only went so far as to remove the diseased organ – and didn’t do the rest of the procedure, replacing it with a working kidney.