By Diana Kachan, et al.
In this study, we examined the rates of 12-month engagement in 4 common mindfulness-based practices (meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong) in US workers, and we compared these rates among major occupational groups, using nationally representative data. To our knowledge, this is the first study to characterize the prevalence of engagement in these practices in the workforce. We found that approximately 12% to 14% of workers and 9% to 12% of the unemployed reported having engaged in at least 1 of these practices within the past year. Over the decade of survey data available, the rates of engagement in some practices (eg, yoga, meditation) increased; rates of yoga practice among workers rose almost twofold between 2002 and 2012. However, the rates of engagement in the lesser-known practices of tai chi and qigong did not substantially change during this period. The rates of engagement in yoga in the general population have risen steadily during the past 2 decades, likely being driven by a combination of factors, including increased public awareness of health benefits, health care provider recommendations to their patients, and the growth in the number of yoga studios and other classroom-based venues available for practice. Furthermore, the clinical success and dissemination of MBI programs, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and its derivatives, could explain some of the increase in the rates of meditation practice engagement.
We could find no intervention studies in the literature which focused on blue-collar or farm workers. Given the low prevalence of these practices noted in this study, there is a pressing need for the development of interventions targeting these occupational groups. These types of workplace settings may present unique implementation challenges compared with similar interventions that target worksites with white-collar workers.
Our finding of high and increasing rates of exposure to mindfulness practices among US workers is encouraging. Approximately 1 in 7 workers report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity, and these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace. Identifying workers who do engage in mindfulness activities and involving them in the promotion of awareness about these in the workplace could increase acceptance of MBIs among occupations that underrepresented among mindfulness practitioners. Managers should take into account and identify such individuals when planning the implementation of MBIs in the workplace. Institutional factors, such as lack of funding or lack of work time for workplace opportunities, that prevent equal access to various health-promotion measures as well as individual beliefs preventing engagement in mindfulness practices should be addressed to make these practices available to all workers.
Although overall rates of engagement in mindfulness practices, such as yoga and meditation, are increasing in the workforce, variation in rates of engagement in mindfulness practices exists across occupational groups. Mindfulness practice can address multiple workplace wellness needs, benefiting both employees and employers. Development of workplace mindfulness programs should target occupational groups that have low rates of engagement in such practices (ie, blue-collar and farm workers), placing emphasis on men and on socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroups within these occupations. This development should be done both by improving institutional factors that limit access to mindfulness-based wellness programs and addressing existing beliefs about mindfulness practices among underrepresented worker groups.