The practice of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in British society and has been widely introduced in the education system, the business sector, and even Parliament, where hundreds of politicians from both the Houses of Commons and Lords have received training in mindfulness so far. Its popularity in the general public has coincided with a growing body of scientific evidence showing the positive effects of mindfulness-based programs on various indices of mental health. But relatively little is known about the prevalence and sociodemographic characteristics of mindfulness practice in Britain.
Deltapoll interviewed a representative sample of 1,013 adults in Britain between 26th and 27th November, 2018. Respondents were asked, “Some people practise a form of meditation known as ‘mindfulness’. Many have never heard of this. How about you? Please indicate which of the following comes closest to your experience?” If respondents reported that they had learnt to practice mindfulness, Deltapoll also asked, “Generally speaking, which of the following best describes how often you practise mindfulness?”
The results showed that 15% had learnt to practise mindfulness from a course, book, app or other source. Of these, 15% had hardly practised it since learning it, and 28% had practised it but had since stopped. 32% practised it from time to time, 21% practised it for a few minutes a day, and 4% for several hours a week. So the overall percentage of people who had learnt mindfulness and were still practising was 9%. (i.e., the total of those still practising as a proportion of all those surveyed).
- 29% of men had never heard of mindfulness, compared with 17% of women.
- 11% of married adults had learnt to practise mindfulness, compared with 18% of adults who were not married.
- 37% of those with a university degree were interested in mindfulness but had not practised it, compared with 28% of those without a university degree.
The proportion of adults in Britain who had learnt mindfulness, 15%, was six times higher than the 2.5% recorded in a survey in 2012 in the USA. We suspect that a new survey would show still higher levels of familiarity with mindfulness.
These and further results from the survey are published in our article in Sociological Research Online.
Amongst other things, we show that those who voted Remain were more likely than Leave voters to have heard of mindfulness. However, among those who had heard of mindfulness, Leave voters were more likely than Remain voters to have higher levels of engagement with mindfulness (including practising more often) after accounting for socio-demographic factors affecting mindfulness use, especially age. Overall, the extent to which people practice mindfulness regularly does not differ significantly between the two groups.
The prevalence of mindfulness practice has likely increased since the survey was conducted in 2018, especially given that mindfulness apps have received an upsurge of interest during the COVID-19 pandemic. How long before Britain truly becomes a Mindful Nation?
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Center for Healthy Minds
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Associate Professor in Political Sociology
Department of Sociology
University of Oxford
Emeritus Professor of Abnormal Psychology
Department of Experimental Psychology
University of Oxford
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to express their gratitude to Deltapoll for collecting the data.