Mindfulness only works for women, Brown University study suggests

Rachel Hosie
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It’s been the buzzword of the last few years that doesn’t appear to be losing speed: mindfulness.

We’ve been told being mindful - that is, focusing solely on the present and our current situations - will heal our unhealthy relationships with food, our mental health and other people.

We must always be mindful if we want to achieve true happiness, or so some people would have us believe.

But achieving mindfulness isn’t easy, and if a new study is to be believed, men should just give up trying.

New research by Brown University in the US suggests that women get much more from mindfulness than men.

The researchers assessed a group of 41 male and 36 female students over a period of 12 weeks, during which time they all underwent a course in mindfulness.

They found that whilst the women experienced a significant change in mental state, the changes for men were minimal.

The reason for the difference is unclear, but the researchers have suggested that it could be because women have a higher tendency to spend time reflecting on things than men.

In contrast, men tend to cast aside and ignore their concerns and worries. But because they do this, they are more likely to be focusing on the present moment already so have less to gain from practising mindfulness.

“That was the surprising part,” said Dr Willoughby Britton, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior and of behavioral and social sciences at Brown.

“I wouldn't be surprised if this is a widespread phenomenon that researchers hadn't bothered to investigate,” she added.

Co-lead author Rahil Rojiani said he hopes the study will even out disparities in mental health care.

“The gender gap in mental health has been inadequately targeted and often only within the standard medical arsenal of pharmacological treatment,” Rojiani said. “Our study is one of the first to explore the effects of mindfulness across gender.”

The findings come despite previous research claiming mindfulness can have many benefits, as well as claims from many men that being mindful has helped them manage health problems and lead happier lives.