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Randomized Controlled Trials of Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Interventions Over the Past Two Decades: A Bibliometric Analysis.

  • Ma, Yan1, 2
  • Kraemer, Kristen M3
  • Lyu, Jiaxuan2
  • Yeh, Gloria Y1, 3
  • 1 Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
  • 2 Division of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Biotechnology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. , (Israel)
  • 3 Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. , (Israel)
Published Article
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Mary Ann Liebert
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1089/acm.2020.0548
PMID: 34252294


Introduction: The past several years have witnessed a significant increase in interest among the public in mindfulness with an unmistakable growth in the scientific literature investigating mindfulness-based therapies. A myriad of therapeutic uses of mindfulness have been studied. Given this burgeoning interest, the authors' objective was to conduct a broad-sweeping bibliometric analysis over the past two decades to describe overarching trends in the publications of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating mindfulness to broadly identify both strengths and gaps in this field and inform a strategic plan for further advancing this research area. Materials and Methods: The authors retrieved mindfulness-focused RCTs available on PubMed in the past two decades (2000-2019). They synthesized the literature with respect to publication numbers, countries of publication, journal type, areas of research focus, characteristics of study designs, sample size, and trends in remote intervention delivery. Results: The resulting 1389 publications represent a near exponential growth trend over the past 20 years. Publications from the top three countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands) with the highest productivity accounted for 60% of total number of publications. The most published modalities include acceptance-based therapy (n = 260), mindfulness-based stress reduction (n = 238), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (n = 174), and dialectical behavior therapy (n = 82). Stress, depression, anxiety, pain, cancer, diet/healthy eating, and sleep were the most common major areas of focus. Studies included active (46%) or inactive controls (44%), and increasingly more studies with both types of controls (10%). The top 10 journals that published the most mindfulness RCTs were from behavioral sciences and psychiatry or psychology. There were 187 RCTs utilizing remote delivery, with 146 (87.1%) in the most recent 5 years. Conclusion: Publications of mindfulness-focused RCTs show a continuous increasing trend. Mindfulness research from non-Western countries and studies published in biomedical journals were less prevalent and potentially represent future opportunities. Trends of studies with both inactive and active controls support an overall advancement in research methodology. There has been a significant expansion of studies of remotely delivered mindfulness interventions. Future research might consider evaluation of a broader range of modalities and further examine optimal delivery formats.

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