Many military veterans who receive care through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) are using mindfulness meditation, according to new research. But nearly all of them appear to be using it outside the VHA.

The findings have been published in the journal Mindfulness.

“There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) may be clinically useful. We were interested in seeing how frequently military veterans are currently using mindfulness, for what reasons, and how useful they are finding mindfulness to be,” explained study author Simon B. Goldberg, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and affiliate faculty at the Center for Healthy Minds.

The researchers surveyed 1,230 veterans regarding their use of complementary and integrative health care, including the utilization of mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

“Military veterans commonly use mindfulness meditation. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used complementary and alternative medicine practice among veterans. We found that about 18% of veteran respondents reported using mindfulness in the past year, although most reported using it outside of the Veterans Health Administration,” Goldberg told PsyPost.

Among veterans who reported using mindfulness, only 15.2% received it at the VHA and 6.9% received it at the VHA and someplace else.

Mindfulness was most commonly used to address mental health conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD. The participants viewed mindfulness as “somewhat helpful” to “moderately helpful” for these conditions on average.

Some veterans also reported using mindfulness practices to improve their relationships and gain a greater sense of control over their health.

“One caveat as that the data were drawn from a particular sample of veterans who give feedback to the VHA. This may impact the generalizability of the results to all military veterans. An important future direction is finding ways to increase access to mindfulness within the VHA,” Goldberg explained.

The study, “Utilization and Perceived Effectiveness of Mindfulness Meditation in Veterans: Results from a National Survey“, was authored by Simon B. Goldberg, Steven B. Zeliadt, Katherine J. Hoggatt, Tracy L. Simpson, John C. Fortney, and Stephanie L. Taylor.