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Natural Awakenings Boston

Study Shows Benson-Henry Institute Participants Reduced Doctor Visits

The core belief of the Benson-Henry Institute (BHI)—that teaching patients mind-body approach like meditation and yoga can reduce their stress and improve overall physical health—was proven correct in a preliminary study published this fall in the journal PLOS ONE. The study, led by Dr. James E. Stahl of the MGH Institute for Technology Assessment, found that patients who participated in BHI programs reduced their medical visits on average by 43 percent in the first year after taking part.

The relaxation response was first described more than 40 years ago by Herbert Benson, M.D., founder and director emeritus of the BHI and a co-author of the study. The physiologic opposite of the well-documented fight-or-flight response, the relaxation response is elicited by practices including meditation, deep breathing and prayer and has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of stress-related disorders ranging from anxiety to hypertension. The paper’s authors note that stress-related illnesses such as anxiety and depression are the third highest causes of health expenditures in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer, which also are affected by stress.

“Studies show that 60 to 90 percent of all medical visits are stress-related. This research proves that we can greatly improve the lives of our patients by integrating stress reduction into our healthcare delivery model,” Benson says. “This could improve patients’ overall health and reduce healthcare costs dramatically. It’s time to integrate this approach into mainstream medicine.”

Source: Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, located at 151 Merrimac St., 4th Flr, Boston. For more information, visit