Individuals with high medical costs – particularly those participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs – could improve their health and save the government money by practicing transcendental meditation, a new study reports.

A Canadian researcher compared physician costs for 248 individuals with consistently high medical expenses over five years. Half of those individuals practiced a meditation technique for 10-20 minutes per day in a seated, relaxed position with their eyes closed. The researchers reported that participants in the meditation group experienced a 28% cumulative decrease in doctor fees compared with their baseline, while the other group saw no significant change in costs.

The investigators reasoned the meditation improved participants’ stress levels, which the study claims is the No. 1 driver of medical costs. This is of interest to those looking at the Medicare population, where a small percentage of participants incur a huge amount of costs.

“Almost no intervention for cost containment has decreased medical expenditures by 28% over five years from a baseline. Now, it may be possible to rescue Medicare and Medicaid by adding coverage for learning the transcendental meditation technique,” the study author, Robert E. Herron, Ph.D., said.  

The study was published in the Oct/Sept. issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.