If women respond better to mindfulness training, the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies may be maximised by gender-specific modifications.
While recent research has shown that mindfulness training has positive effects on treating anxiety and depression, new findings from Brown University have suggested that mindfulness training helps women more than it does men.
The study, published in Frontiers journal, monitored 41 male and 36 female students participants over the course of a 12-week academic class on mindfulness training with meditation components.
Over the course of the study, women’s moods improved by an average of 11.6 points, while the average mood of men got slightly worse.
The authors said: “For women, decreases in negative affect were significantly correlated with improvements in mindfulness skills involving their tendency to notice thoughts and emotions without identifying with or judging them, and self-compassion skills involving increased self-kindness and reduced tendencies toward self-judgment and over-identification with emotions.”
In contrast, men’s improvements on mindfulness and self- compassion did not correlate with improvements in negative affect, suggesting that the therapeutic mechanism of mindfulness for negative affect may be gender-specific.
The authors propose that the effects observed in men and women were caused primarily by gender-based differences in emotion regulation techniques.
“Gendered differences in emotion regulation techniques have been indicated by neuroimaging research using fMRI which has reported that men demonstrate less activation of brain regions involved in emotional regulation,” they wrote.
Furthermore, it means the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies may be maximised by gender-specific modifications.
If improvement in affect in men are associated with the ability to describe and differentiate emotions, then practices that emphasise this skill, such as open-monitoring and affect labelling may be more beneficial to men, the authors suggest.
Research Friedman and Berger, 1991, indicated that men and women with higher masculinity ratings respond better to physically active forms of stress reduction.
The authors said: “More active methods of mindfulness training, such as yoga or Tai Chi, may work better for men rather than silent meditation training without movement, given that they may better accommodate the external coping strategy more typical of men.”