Study - Quebec Health Care Costs Cut with Transcendental Meditation Technique



Maharishi University of Management

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Findings from a Quebec study published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion suggest that people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique are healthier and need less medical care - a preventive eye-opener which could save Canada's health insurance agencies billions of dollars each year.


A retrospective of Quebec health insurance enrollees showed that over a six-year period a group of TM technique practitioners reduced government payments to physicians up to 13 percent per year, compared to a control group. This could translate into savings of as much as $300 million per year for the province's health insurance company, the Regie de l'assurance-maladie du Quebec (RAMQ), researchers say.


"This is a significant finding, one that could help reduce the soaring health care costs of Canada's provincial governments," says Robert Herron, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Director of the Health Management Research Center at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.


The study involved a total of 2836 health insurance enrollees from Quebec. Of these, 1418 were volunteers who had been practicing the TM technique for an average of six years, and 1418 were controls of the same age, sex, and region who were randomly selected by RAMQ. Using data provided by RAMQ, Herron and associates first established a baseline by going back 14 years and gathering information on the total amount of money paid to physicians for this group. Adjustments for inflation were made using the medical cost component of the Canadian government's Consumer Price Index (CPI). The scientists were able to determine a typical subject's rate of change in expenditure over the period using robust statistics.


13 Percent Differential Decrease in Government Physician Payments


Researchers found that before starting meditation, the yearly rate of increase in payments between the TM group and the control group was not significant. However, after learning meditation, the TM group's mean payments declined 1 percent to 2 percent each year, while the control group's mean payments increased up to 12 percent annually over six years. Thus, there was a mean annual difference between the two groups of about 13



Need for Preventive Medicine in Canada


"Given Canada's health-care funding crisis and the significance of these new findings from Quebec, provincial governments should seriously consider investing in this prevention-oriented technique," says Raju Hajela, M.D., MPH, Lecturer, Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry, Queen's University, Kingston, ON.


According to Herron, over 70 percent of illnesses arise from preventable causes such as improper diet, lack of exercise, and substance abuse. Last year, RAMQ allocated approximately 1 percent of its budget to disease prevention and spent the remaining 99 percent on medical treatment.


"Physicians know that 80-90 percent of all illnesses are caused and complicated by stress. Research has shown that the TM technique is a highly effective stress-reducing program," says Herron.


A search of Medline on "Transcendental Meditation" lists more than 200 published research studies conducted worldwide on the technique during the past 30 years. Studies published in leading periodicals like Psychosomatic Medicine and Scientific American indicate that regular practice of the TM technique is associated with a wide range of health benefits to mind, body, and behavior.


"This is one of the few meditation and relaxation techniques that has been tested with our best science," says Herron.


Transcendental Meditation is a simple relaxation technique practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice daily while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. The technique was introduced in Canada by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1959. Nearly 200,000 Canadians and six million people worldwide have learned the technique, according to the national office for the TM program in Ottawa.


"We are very encouraged by these findings and look forward to confirming them in future randomized trials," says Stephen L. Hillis, Ph.D., second author of the study and Director of the Statistical Consulting Center, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.