Original Research

Examining the impact of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction intervention on the health of urban South Africans

Simon L. Whitesman, Michelle Hoogenhout, Linda Kantor, Katherine J. Leinberger, Anik Gevers
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 10, No 1 | a1614 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v10i1.1614 | © 2018 Simon L. Whitesman, Michelle Hoogenhout, Linda Kantor, Katherine J. Leinberger, Anik Gevers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 August 2017 | Published: 18 June 2018

About the author(s)

Simon L. Whitesman, Institute for Mindfulness South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa; Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Michelle Hoogenhout, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Linda Kantor, Institute for Mindfulness South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa ; Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Katherine J. Leinberger, Institute for Mindfulness South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
Anik Gevers, Adolescent Health Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cape Town,, South Africa


Background: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to have significant health benefits in studies conducted in the global North.
Aim: This study examined the effects of MBSR on stress, mood states and medical symptoms among urban South Africans to inform future research and clinical directions of MBSR in local settings.
Setting: Participants completed an 8-week MBSR programme based in central Cape Town.
Method: A retrospective analysis of 276 clinical records was conducted. Mindfulness, stress, negative and positive mood, medical symptoms and psychological symptoms were assessed before and after the intervention using self-report questionnaires. We compared pre and postintervention scores and examined the relationship between changes in mindfulness and changes in stress, mood and medical symptoms.
Results: Mindfulness scores were significantly higher after intervention, both on the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) and the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). Changes on the KIMS were associated with reductions in stress, negative mood, psychological symptoms and total medical symptoms, and improvement in positive mood. Changes in mindfulness, as measured by the MAAS, were significantly correlated only with reduced total number of medical symptoms.
Conclusion: This study provides preliminary evidence for the positive health impact of MBSR on urban South Africans, and in turn acceptability and feasibility evidence for MBSR in South Africa and supports the case for larger trials in different local settings.


MBSR; mindfulness; South Africa; health


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