Complementary and integrative health (CIH) approaches are increasingly utilized in health care, and mindfulness meditation is one such evidence-based CIH practice. More information is needed about veterans’ utilization of mindfulness to inform integration within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
This study involved secondary data analysis of a national survey to evaluate utilization and perceived effectiveness of mindfulness relative to other CIH approaches among military veterans. Military veterans (n = 1230) enrolled in VHA reported CIH utilization rates, reasons for use, perceived effectiveness, treatment barriers, and demographics.
Approximately 18% of veterans reported using mindfulness meditation in the past year, exceeding the proportion using all other CIH approaches (p < .001), with the exception of massage and chiropractic care. Mindfulness was most commonly used for stress reduction and addressing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Among mindfulness users, veterans rated mindfulness with a mean score of 3.18 out of 5 (SD = 0.82) in terms of effectiveness, reflecting a response in the “somewhat helpful” to “moderately helpful” range. This was similar to ratings of other CIH approaches (mean = 3.20, p = .391). Of those who used mindfulness, nearly all (78%) reported only using it outside the VHA. Veterans identified not knowing if the VHA offered mindfulness as the most common reason for using mindfulness outside VHA.
In summary, veterans use mindfulness for a range of reasons and report receiving benefit from its use. Low awareness and potentially low availability of VHA’s mindfulness programs need to be addressed to increase access.