A study published in the journal Preventive Medicine claims to have found a way for adults to overcome traumatic pasts. Researchers found that people who were more committed to mindfulness—described as the practice of focusing on the present moment—were more likely to have better mental and physical health. These findings seem to support mindfulness-based training aimed to cope with, and ultimately reduce, anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.

Studying the Effects of Mindfulness

Researchers from Temple University recruited 2,160 adults to participate in this study. All participants were collected from Head Start, an early childhood education program. They were then asked to answer questionnaires based on their current health and mindfulness, i.e. their ability to be aware and present in the current moment. Additionally, they were asked if they experienced different types of childhood trauma, like verbal/physical abuse, neglect, or parental substance abuse.

Approximately one-fourth of the participants expressed three or more types of childhood trauma, while 30% reported three or more anxiety-related conditions, such as depression. Those who reported high mindfulness, however, had a nearly 50% reduced risk of stress-related conditions. Not only were mindful participants less likely to suffer from stress-related issues, they also reported more healthy behaviors, such as getting proper amounts of sleep. They were also more likely to express less days per month where they felt poorly, both mentally and/or physically.

How Mindfulness can Affect Poor Adult Health

"Our results suggest that mindfulness may provide some resilience against the poor adult health outcomes that often result from childhood trauma," said Robert Whitaker, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Public Health and Pediatrics at Temple University. Researchers also noted the psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness practices, like meditation. This kind of practice can reduce symptoms of anxiety-related conditions like depression. Whitaker, however, added that more research is needed to see if increased mindfulness can improve functioning for those with traumatic childhood experiences.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: November 10, 2015


Robert C. Whitaker, Tracy Dearth-Wesley, Rachel A. Gooze, Brandon D. Becker, Kathleen C. Gallagher, Bruce S. McEwen. Adverse childhood experiences, dispositional mindfulness, and adult health. Preventive Medicine, October 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.07.029