Spirituality has historically been a neglected aspect of people’s lives within a healthcare context. Previous meta-analyses of the effect of Mindfulness-Based Programs (MBPs) on spirituality have been limited by the small number of includable studies that were available at the time, by not comparing MBPs to active controls, and by not investigating whether effects continue to be observed at follow-up. Therefore, the current systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to more comprehensively examine whether, and to what extent, secular MBPs increase spirituality, and to identify moderators of any observed effects.
Random effects meta-analyses were conducted on 13 controlled trials of MBPs measuring spirituality that were identified by a systematic search of PsycInfo and Medline.
At post-intervention, MBPs increased spirituality compared to both passive and active controls (passive: g = 0.52, 95% C.I.: 0.35 to 0.68; active: g = 0.34, 95% C.I.: 0.14 to 0.54), and effects continued to be observed at follow-up (passive: g = 0.32, 95% C.I.: 0.09 to 0.55; active: g = 0.44, 95% C.I.: 0.18 to 0.71). For passive controls at post-intervention, cancer samples showed a significantly larger pooled effect than the non-cancer ones (cancer: g = 0.75, 95% C.I.: 0.52 to 0.98; non-cancer: g = 0.38, 95% C.I.: 0.20 to 0.56; χ2(1) = 6.14, p = 0.01), but moderation analysis was not possible at follow-up or for active controls. Study quality was not significantly associated with effect size.
Secular MBPs appear to increase spirituality; these effects endure beyond the end of the MBP and they cannot wholly be attributed to non-specific therapeutic factors. Limitations are discussed.