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Natural Awakenings Boston

Study Participants Reduced Doctors Visits by 43 Percent

Oct 31, 2016 12:05AM

A preliminary study led by Dr. James E. Stahl and published this fall in the journal PLOS ONE found that patients who participated in Benson-Henry Institute (BHI) mind-body programs like meditation and yoga reduced their medical visits on average by 43 percent in the year after taking part.

“Our study’s primary finding is that programs that train patients to elicit the relaxation response—specifically those taught at the BHI—can also dramatically reduce healthcare utilization,” says Stahl.

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,” says Benson. “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, 151 Merrimac St., 4th Flr., Boston. BensonHenryInstitute.org.

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