Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of primary care office visits and are the third largest health care expenditure, behind only heart disease and cancer. But only as few as 3% of physicians actually counsel their patients about strategies to reduce stress (yoga, meditation, etc). A National Institute of Health funded study (Nerurkar A et al, JAMA Intern Med 2015) studied 33,045 primary care office visits from 2006 to 2009 and stress management counseling was the least common type of counseling, compared to counseling about nutrition (16.8%), physical activity (12.3%), weight reduction (6.3%), and tobacco cessation (3.7%).
Mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce the body’s stress response by strengthening the relaxation response and lowering stress hormones like cortisol, improved heart health and helping to relieve depression and anxiety. Now there are reports which suggest that these practices can also lead to decreased health care expenditure as well. A team of researchers from Harvard (Stahl JE et al, PLoS ONE 2015), found that people in the mind-body program used 43% fewer medical services compared to individuals not in the program, saving an average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. They computed that yoga and meditation programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per person per year. Now this is a win-win situation, health plus wealth. The good news is that roughly one in 10 Americans practices yoga, and 45% of adults who don’t practice yoga say they are interested in trying it. Go Holistic!