Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Adult Health Nursing

First Advisor

Dr. D. Patricia Gray


PROBLEM STATEMENT: Growing evidence indicates that psychological stress contributes to cardiovascular diseases through complex neuroendocrine mechanisms. Psychological stress leads to several physiological responses including increased heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) as well as decreased heart rate variability (HRV) through alterations in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), specifically increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and decreased parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity. Meditation is thought to induce an innate relaxation response leading to reduced psychological stress. Findings from past studies have provided inconclusive evidence regarding the direction and strength of relationships among stress, BP, HRV, and meditation practice. PROCEDURES: A cross-sectional descriptive-correlational design was used to examine relationships among perceived stress, BP, HRV and meditation practice in meditators. A convenience sample of 71 meditators at two meditation centers in the southeast United States was used. Sample size was based on a power analysis. Each participant was asked to complete meditation, perceived stress, and demographic questionnaires. Participants' BP was measured before meditation and HRV was recorded during a 30 minute meditation session. Finally, BP was recorded after meditation. RESULTS: Participants were predominantly female (55%), Caucasian/white (94%), and Buddhist (76%), with 93% having at least college graduate. Most participants practiced soto zen or vipassana meditation (45% and 30%, respectively). The average length of total meditation practice was 103.66 months. Participants practiced meditation an average of once a day for 4 days a week with mean session duration of 34 minutes. Most participants had a low level of perceived stress and normal HRV. There was a statistically significant decrease in mean systolic BP after meditation (t = 5.31, p CONCLUSIONS: The results suggested meditators had low levels of perceived stress and that meditation had an effect on systolic BP and perceived current stress. Future research needs to include longitudinal studies to elucidate the cumulative effects of consistent meditation practice on psychological and physiological outcomes.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Nursing Commons