An Evaluation of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Program for Tāmaki Health Patients
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Background: One in five New Zealanders are affected by mental health issues every year and suicide rates in New Zealand are consistently high. Mindfulness-meditation-based programs (MMBPs) have research evidence for use with a variety of mental and physical health disorders in a range of settings such as outpatient care, primary healthcare, and private care. However, much of this research is not contextualized to New Zealand healthcare. The Aotearoa Mindfulness and Awareness (AMA) Wellness course is an MMBP based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and was developed by an MBSR trained clinician. Tāmaki Health, New Zealand’s largest primary healthcare group offers approximately 63 AMA courses per year. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of Tāmaki Health’s AMA Wellness course on wellbeing for participants aged sixteen and older. Participants/Method: For this mixed-methods research, quantitative data were collected via questionnaires at baseline from 70 participants and post-intervention from 31 who completed the course. Due to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown starting in August 2021, AMA courses continued online, therefore, data from participant samples were analysed according to whether they received in-person course delivery or online delivery. Qualitative data were collected from telephone interviews with ten participants and the data analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Spearman’s rho correlation analyses found that, in both samples, higher mindfulness levels were correlated with lower levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Additionally, higher depressive symptom levels were correlated with higher somatization and anxiety symptom levels in both samples. Descriptive statistical analysis and Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests found that after completing the AMA in-person courses, scores of mindfulness increased, and levels of somatization, anxiety and depressive symptoms decreased. The same analysis revealed that for the online courses, levels of mindfulness increased and levels of anxiety symptoms decreased from pre- to post-intervention. Attrition rates were over 50%. However, an independent samples T-test and chi-square analyses indicated no statistically significant differences in demographics and course completion. Interviews revealed two major themes: Slowing down and Letting things go. Conclusions: The quantitative data suggest that after attending the AMA course, most participants demonstrate an increase in mindfulness levels and a decrease in anxiety when delivered in-person or online. When the AMA course is completed in-person, scores of somatization and depressive symptoms also decrease. Most participants who were interviewed commented that the AMA course impacted them positively and provided tools to cope with everyday challenges. Strengths and limitations, clinical implications, and directions for future research are discussed.