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Barriers to Meditation by Gender and Age Among Cancer Family Caregivers

Williams, Anna-leila; Ness, Peter Van; Dixon, Jane; McCorkle, Ruth

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e3182337f4d

Background: Despite solid basic science research supporting meditation’s physiologic benefits, meditation remains a marginalized practice for many Westerners; observational and descriptive studies indicate a spectrum of barriers to meditation practice.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine differences in barriers to meditation by gender and age.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey study of 150 family caregivers to adults with cancer visiting an outpatient chemotherapy center in Connecticut was conducted. The primary outcome was the Determinants of Meditation Practice Inventory. Explanatory variables included demographic characteristics, Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, Big Five Inventory, and Caregiver Reaction Assessment.

Results: Participants included 98 women and 52 men. Age range was 18–84 years (M = 52.3 years). The highest frequency of barriers for both genders related to misconceptions about meditation. The total number of barriers to meditation did not significantly vary by gender (p = .10) nor age (p = .27). After adjusting for personality trait, reactions to caregiving, and emotional distress, gender (adjusted β = 0.81, SE = 1.70, p = .63) and age (adjusted β = 0.02, SE = 0.05, p = .67) still did not predict the number of barriers to meditation. Backward elimination in model building showed that personality trait and reactions to caregiving account for 32% of the variability in barriers.

Discussion: The total number of barriers to meditation was examined, and a difference was not found by age or gender. It is possible that differences by age and gender exist at the item level of evaluation but were not evident when evaluating total scores. Further study is needed with samples large enough to have statistical power for item-level analysis.

Anna-leila Williams, PhD, PA, MPH, is Assistant Professor of Medicine, Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, Hamden, Connecticut.

Peter Van Ness, PhD, MPH, is Research Scientist in Medicine (Geriatrics), School of Medicine, Yale University, and Co-Director, Biostatistics Core, Yale Program on Aging, New Haven, Connecticut.

Jane Dixon, PhD, is Professor, Yale School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut.

Ruth McCorkle, PhD, FAAN, is Florence S. Wald Professor of Nursing, Yale School of Nursing, and Professor of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut.

Accepted for publication August 3, 2011.

This study was supported by the National Institute of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (F31AT003535) and the Mind and Life Institute Francisco J. Varela Contemplative Science Grant Award. Dr. Van Ness was supported in part by funding from the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center at the Yale University School of Medicine (2P30 AG021342-06).

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Corresponding author: Anna-leila Williams, PhD, PA, MPH, Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Quinnipiac University School of Medicine, 275 Mt. Carmel Avenue, N1-275, Hamden, CT 06518-1908 (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.