There is growing interest in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to combat mental distress in medical students. In Saudi Arabia, literature is insufficient about MBSR and its effectiveness. This study aims to measure the effectiveness of MBSR in improving mindful state, stress, anxiety, and depression in medical students. Also, the study explores the association between the attendance rate of MBSR sessions and its effectiveness. Lastly, the study examines gender differences in response to MBSR.
This is a stratified randomized controlled study of 84 medical students from two medical schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They were recruited voluntarily from November 2018 to April 2021, and allocated to MBSR and waitlist groups using a stratified randomization method based on gender. MBSR group received eight weeks of sessions through audiovisual materials. An online survey utilizing validated questionnaires assessing stress, mindfulness, anxiety, and depression was used to evaluate both groups pre-program (time 0), post-program (time 1), and three months later (time 2).
Seventy-one participants completed the post-test (time 1). There were no differences between study groups at time 0 and 1. However, in 41 subjects who completed the follow-up test (time 2), the anxiety dropped significantly in MBSR group (mean difference (MD), -3.935; 95% CI, -7.580 to -0.290). Furthermore, attending more MBSR sessions was inversely correlated with depression (r, -0.556; P, 0.002), and anxiety (r, -0.630; P, 0.000). Compared to their baseline, males in MBSR group improved in stress (MD, 3.08; 95% CI, 0.30 to 5.86), anxiety (MD, 4.91; 95% CI, 3.32 to 6.50), and mindfulness (MD, -0.58; 95% CI, -1.01 to -0.15), while females improved in stress (MD, 2.64; 95% CI, 0.02 to 5.26).
Despite the study being interrupted by the stressful COVID-19 outbreak, the findings suggest that MBSR improved psychological outcomes when participants commit to the program.