African refugees find relief from stress; TM study published in academic journal

“Before [Transcendental Meditation] I could not even imagine myself being capable of taking care of my children, of raising them. I used to think I should die and leave them behind. That is why I am so happy about TM. It has saved me.”

“My mind can function again, I can sleep again.”

“Meditation helped me to feel peace inside again.”

A new research paper, “Reduction in Post – traumatic Stress Symptoms in Congolese Refugees Practising Transcendental Meditation”, has just been published in the April 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed academic journal, the Journal of Traumatic Stress (Volume 26, Issue 2, pp. 295-298).

It is now recognised that a significant percentage of soldiers returning from wars exhibit symptoms of posttraumatic stress, observe the authors of the study. But, they ask, what about the victims of such violence? These victims, many of them forced to flee as refugees, live with the constant reminder of what war has done to their lives and those of their families. Could Transcendental Meditation be an effective antidote to post-traumatic stress for such individuals? This was the question that prompted Colonel Brian Rees, MD (a Colonel in the US Army Reserves with over 37 years experience of military service) and Fred Travis, PhD (Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management, USA) to carry out this study.

The study found dramatic reductions to post-traumatic stress symptoms after just 30 days, with the improvement maintained at 135 days.

The conclusion reached by the authors is that the state of restful alertness gained during Transcendental Meditation appears to reverse the damage done by traumatic experiences.

The findings of the study replicate earlier research on veterans of Vietnam, and of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the Vietnam study, Transcendental Meditation was found to be more effective in the treatment of veterans than psychotherapy for reducing anxiety, depression, insomnia, alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress symptoms and stress reactivity. A later study on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan found that three months practice of Transcendental Meditation resulted in a decrease in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Based on the research conducted so far, the authors call for large-scale studies to be carried out, assessing both quantitative and qualitative measures to investigate the effects of Transcendental Meditation on reducing behavioural, psychological and physiological symptoms resulting from traumatic experiences.

The African refugees study was funded by the David Lynch Foundation, working in partnership with African PTSD Relief to help the victims of war in Africa. Forty-two refugees from the Congolese civil war, living in Uganda, were assigned to one of two groups: one that received instruction in Transcendental Meditation immediately and a control group that waited until after the study. The two groups were matched for age, gender and severity of post-traumatic stress symptoms. All participants were given a standard test, the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL) before learning, and then again 30 days and 135 days after learning Transcendental Meditation.

Both groups had severe posttraumatic stress symptoms at the start of the study. For the control group, PCL scores showed an upward trend, indicating an increase in the severity of their symptoms, during the experimental period. In contrast, PCL scores in the group that learnt Transcendental Meditation went from high at baseline, to a nonsymptomatic level after 30 days of practice, and remained low at 135 days. A drop of 11 points on this measure is considered clinically significant – visible improvements can be seen.

“We anticipated improvement, but I didn’t expect this magnitude of change. The continued improvement at four months also led us to conclude that Transcendental Meditation may be a very worthwhile intervention for anyone suffering from posttraumatic stress.”

– Colonel Brian Rees, MD

For more information about the Africa PTSD Relief Project visit


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