Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA studied the efficacy of a mindfulness training program (MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction) in improving asthma-related quality of life and lung function in patients with asthma.

A randomized controlled trial compared an 8-week MBSR group-based program with 42 subjects  (n=42) to an educational control program with 241 subjects (n=41) in adults with mild, moderate or severe persistent asthma, recruited at a university hospital’s outpatient primary care and pulmonary care services.

The primary outcomes assessed were quality of life (Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire) and lung function (change from baseline in the 2-week average morning peak expiratory flow or PEF). Secondary outcomes were asthma control, as assessed by 2007 National Institutes of Health/National Heart Lung and Blood Institute guidelines; and stress (Perceived Stress Scale or PSS). Follow-up assessments were conducted at 10 weeks, 6 and 12 months.

At 12 months the MBSR group showed clinically significant improvements in quality of life [differential change in Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire score for MBSR vs control: 0.66 (95% CI 0.30 to 1.03; p<0.001)] but not in lung function (morning PEF, PEF variability and forced expiratory volume in 1 s).

The MBSR group also showed clinically significant improvements in perceived stress (differential change in PSS score for MBSR vs control: -4.5 (95% CI -7.1 to -1.9; p=0.001)).
There was no significant difference (p=0.301) in percentage of patients in MBSR with well controlled asthma (7.3% at baseline to 19.4%) compared with the control condition (7.5% at baseline to 7.9%).

MBSR was associated with lasting and clinically significant improvements in asthma-related quality of life and in stress levels in patients with persistent asthma, but did not appear to produce improvements in lung function.

Citation:  Pbert L, Madison JM, Druker S, Olendzki N, Magner R, Reed G, Allison J, Carmody J. Effect of mindfulness training on asthma quality of life and lung function: a randomised controlled trial. Thorax. 2012 Sep;67(9):769-76. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200253. Epub 2012 Apr 27.