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J Altern Complement Med. 2014 May;20(5):406-10. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0209. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Measuring the effects of Zen training on quality of life and mental health among Japanese monk trainees: a cross-sectional study.

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1 Department of General Medicine, University of Tsukuba , Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan .



Previous studies have reported that the practice of meditation can have beneficial physiologic and mental effects. Therefore, Zen trainees who regularly practice meditation might have high quality-of-life scores and high levels of general mental health; however, no previous study has tested these relationships. This article reports on a study that examined how rigorous professional training affected the International Quality of Life (QOL) Assessment Short Form-36 (SF-36) and General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28) scores of Zen trainees in Japanese monasteries.


This was a single-center questionnaire-based study.


The study was conducted in Rinzai Zen monasteries. SUBJECT INTERVENTIONS: Anonymous and confidential surveys containing the SF-36 and GHQ-28 were distributed by mail, and 256 questionnaires were collected from Rinzai Zen monasteries.


One hundred ninety-eight complete questionnaires were collected and the participants were divided according to their training length: group I (<1 year), group II (1-3 years), and group III (≥3 years). One-way analysis of variance and Tukey test for multiple comparison were conducted on normally distributed data, and the Kruskal-Wallis test was performed on non-normally distributed data.


The SF-36 seven subscale scores (physical functioning, role-physical, body pain, general health, vitality, role-emotional, and mental health) of the longer-length training group were significantly higher compared to other groups. The SF-36 MCS (mental component summary) score among the groups were significantly different, and the scores of group III were significantly higher compared to the scores of group I. Furthermore, the GHQ-28 total and subscales (somatization, anxiety, social dysfunction, and depression) scores of longer-length training were significantly lower (better).


These findings suggest that Zen professional training, including inward-attention practices, improves the QOL and general mental health of trainees, even in a tough and distressing environment. However, detailed qualitative and longitudinal studies are required to fully assess these effects.

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