How Many People Meditate In The World?

  • By: Ryan Kane
  • Updated: April 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.

Approximately 275 million people meditate around the world. The data behind this estimate is a combination of government surveys and Google Trends data across multiple languages. In this article, I’ll walk you through how I reached this estimate, and why I think it’s the most accurate answer to date.

It’s harder to find an answer than you might think to the question “How many people meditate.”

Believe me—I spent hours researching, and ultimately decided there had been no thorough review of the data. There are articles that provide estimates, but include no data or rationale for reaching those estimates.

So, I decided to take it upon myself to provide the most accurate estimate of the number of worldwide meditators that exists.

Let’s jump to the estimate, and then dive into the methodology as well as more information on meditation numbers in each country.

How many people meditate in the world?

Approximately 275 million people. There are a number of data sources driving this estimate.

First, a handful of governments around the world have run wellness surveys to estimate how many of their residents are practicing meditation.

Second, in some meditation studies that pull subjects from the general population, we can see what percentage of those people were already meditators before entering the studies.

Third, Google Trends provides data on the search popularity of meditation in countries across the world. Using this, and including the words for “meditation” in many global languages, we can quantify the relative popularity of meditation across countries.

We’ll go into more detail on each of these below.

About 15% of adults meditate (in countries that have run surveys)

The most commonly cited research around the number of people who meditate is a 2017 National Health Interview Survey conducted in the United States. The survey covered 26,742 people and concluded that 14.2% of adults in the United States practice meditation.

Two other large surveys found similar results.

A 2020 survey of 1,013 adults in Britain found that 15% practice meditation.

Finally, a 2018 survey of 2,126 adults in Germany found that 15.1% practice meditation.

These are the strongest government-backed surveys that exist on the topic, so from this, we can conclude that 15% is a reasonable median percentage of adult meditators.

Outliers in the data

There is some data that falls far enough away from the 15% median that I’m excluding it in this article’s estimates.

A 2020 survey of 4,600 adults in Canada found that 26.3% practice meditation. However, it’s worth mentioning that this survey was done at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the survey was framed in the context of “what you’re doing for your health during this period,” which may have led to higher rates of affirmative responses.

Meanwhile, a 2014 Pew survey covered 35,071 people in the United States and concluded 40% meditate once a week. However, this was as a part of a “religious landscape” survey and it’s such an outlier from the national survey data we have that I’m going to exclude it.

I attempted to find more global sources, as the only data available comes from North America and Europe. There are many meditation studies that have been done around the world, and some of them pull from the general population and ask participants if they already had a meditation practice before answering the survey.

One meditation study done in India in 2021 that included 649 participants from the general population. 17.8% of them practiced meditation, and 20.5% practiced both yoga and meditation, making for a total of 38.3%. However, although these participants are from the general population (ie, they weren’t selected for experience with yoga or meditation), the fact that they agreed to be part of a meditation & yoga study may have led to self-selection based on interest. So I don’t think we can take this into account.

Estimating the number of children who meditate

How Many Children Meditate Around the World
5.2% of children meditated in 2017, according to the US NIH

Very little information exists on the number of children who meditate.

The same 2017 National Health Interview Survey referenced above found that 5.2% of children 4-17 years old practiced meditation.

However, this seems to be the only data that exists on the subject.

For the purposes of this estimate, I excluded children under 15.

A ballpark “max estimate” of possible global meditators

The global population is 7.9 billion as of 2022.

74.52% of the global population is over the age of 15, according to the World Bank.

That means we can get a ballpark “high end” estimate by just applying our median percentage of adult meditators (15%) to the current global population of adults (5.89 Billion).

That gets us to a ceiling of 884 million possible adult meditators.

Of course, that assumes that the entire population of adults around the world has similar wellness practices to the United States, Canada, and Europe.

So to get a closer estimate, we have to dig deeper.

Accounting for culture, history and bias

Mindfulness in Japan
Cover of a Japanese magazine in 2017 focusing on mindfulness meditation

Meditation studies and surveys have been concentrated in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, making reliable data elsewhere hard to come by, especially when it comes to the percentage of the general population that may practice meditation.

This is also a subject where accurate data can be counterintuitive.

For example, it’s easy to assume that meditation rates would be highest in places like China, Japan and India, where meditation originated and where there are centuries of history and deep cultural familiarity with meditation.

However, the South Asian and East Asian cultures in which meditation originated don’t necessarily have high rates of practice among their general population.

For example, take this article on mindfulness in Japan by the Buddhist publication Tricycle:

“Rev. Kawakami is the deputy head priest of Shunkoin, a Rinzai Zen temple in the Myoshinji complex in Kyoto. He’s part of a small group of Zen priests who have been promoting mindfulness in hopes of demonstrating the relevance of Buddhism in people’s lives… The approach of this Zen priest may sound similar to those of many other mindfulness teachers, but he’s an exception among his fellow Japanese monks, who do not spend a lot of time teaching meditation. Instead, most temples primarily provide memorial services— expensive Buddhist funerals—for deceased followers.”

While meditation was until recently seen as something done mainly by monks in Buddhist and Hindu cultures, the science-focused mindfulness movement of recent decades is catching on in those countries too.

Why don’t East Asian countries rank higher?

As discussed above, countries with historical and cultural ties to Buddhism and Hinduism don’t necessarily have the highest modern rates of meditation.

However, it was still surprising to see Japan at #34, Thailand at #44, South Korea at #53, and China at #55 on our list.

That’s despite including the term for “meditation” in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in our core Google Trends search, and also testing variations of the search with languages like Thai, Vietnamese, Khmer, Laotian and Burmese.

There may be other factors at play. Some countries in Asia block Google (like China) while in others, Google is not the dominant search engine (like in South Korea). However, while search volume would be lower in these countries, the relative number of searches shouldn’t change.

The relative popularity of meditation in Google Trends

To try and estimate the population of meditators in countries outside of the US, Canada, and Europe, we’ll move to another tool: Google Trends. With Google Trends, we can gather data based on searches from every country on the planet since 2004.

The data from one country to another is compared based on relative volume of searches. That helps make sure the search volume from high population countries like India isn’t overwhelming smaller countries like Ireland.

We constructed a Google Trends search for “meditation” in multiple languages, to help reduce any English-language bias. Ten languages was the maximum we were able to add to the core search, so we added the most commonly spoken languages around the world.

We also adjusted this core search by swapping in other languages around the world to see if the rankings changed. Generally, there was no change, with the exception of Vietnamese and Thai. For example, when adding Swahili, Kenya’s ranking stayed the same, and no other East African countries appeared on the list.

Here’s what the search looked like:

google trends search how many meditators globally
Google Trends search for meditation in multiple languages

A formula to estimate the number of meditators

With a combination of survey data and Google Trends data, I created a formula to estimate the number of meditators in countries that don’t have any official data on the subject.

Adult Population * (Global Average Percentage of Adult Meditators * Google Trends relative popularity)

Here’s how it looks in practice:

Vietnam has a population of 97.34 million and an adult population of 74.85 million.

74.85 million x 15% adult meditators x .71 Google Trends popularity = 8.03 million people estimated to practice mediation. That’s 10.72% of the adult population.

Population of meditators by country
Percentage of global meditators by country

Exceptions to the formula

In cases where there was a country-specific survey, like the US, Canada, UK and Germany, I used that survey percentage and ignored the Google Trends data.

Since official surveys in the UK and Germany were both around 15%, I also made the decision to ignore the Google Trends data for Europe, Australia and New Zealand and just use 15% across the board in those countries. The cultural similarities between the UK/Germany and countries like Switzerland, Finland and Australia are too great to assume there would be a large divergence in data.

Finally, there were 1.26 Billion people who weren’t accounted for because their countries didn’t have enough search volume to make it into the Google Trends data. I made the assumption that their data was equal to the data of the lowest country on the list, which added another 1.9 million meditators globally.

The number of meditators by country

Based on our data, there are 275 million people practicing meditation in the world.

The country with the highest number of meditators is India (80.7 million), followed by the United States (37.9 million) and China (12.2 million).

You might also be interested in these separate lists of the most popular countries for meditation and the most popular cities for meditation.

The following list is sorted by the relative popularity of meditation by country, according to Google Trends data.

Global Meditators by Country MB

You can see the full report here:

Frequently asked questions

How many people in Australia meditate?

There are an estimated 3.04 million people practicing meditation in Australia.

Meditation is more popular in Australia than in any other country, according to Google Trends data. 15% of adults practice meditation in Australia.

How many people in Canada meditate?

There are an estimated 8.4 million people in Canada practicing meditation.

A 2020 survey of 4,600 adults in Canada found that 26.3% practice meditation.

How many people in the United States meditate?

An estimated 37.95 million people practice meditation in the United States.

A 2017 National Health Interview Survey in the United States surveyed 26,742 people and concluded that 14.2% of adults in the United States practice meditation.

How many people in the UK meditate?

An estimated 8.29 million people practice meditation in the UK.

A 2020 survey of 1,013 adults in Britain found that 15% practice meditation.

How many people in Germany meditate?

An estimated 10.9 million people practice meditation in Germany.

A 2018 survey of 2,126 adults in Germany found that 15.1% practice meditation.

How many people in India meditate?

An estimated 80.7 million people practice meditation in India. The percentage of meditators in India is 8.1% of adults.

There are no national surveys in India that have determined the percentage of meditators. However, the average percentage of adults who meditate in surveys across North America and Europe is 15%.

Our formula for determining the number of meditators is Adult Population * (Global Average Percentage of Adult Meditators * Google Trends relative popularity)

The adult population of India is 996 million. Compared with other countries around the world, India has a Google Trends ranking of 54 for the term meditation. According to our formula, this puts the likely number of meditators in India at 80.7 million.

How many people in China meditate?

An estimated 12.1 million people practice meditation in China. The percentage of meditators in China is 1.06% of adults.

There are no national surveys in China that have determined the percentage of meditators. However, the average percentage of adults who meditate in surveys across North America and Europe is 15%.

Our formula for determining the number of meditators is Adult Population * (Global Average Percentage of Adult Meditators * Google Trends relative popularity)

The adult population of China is 1153.84 million. Compared with other countries around the world, China has a Google Trends ranking of 7 for the term meditation. According to our formula, this puts the likely number of meditators in China at 12.1 million.

How many people in Japan meditate?

An estimated 3.3 million people practice meditation in Japan. The percentage of meditators in Japan is 3.02% of adults.

There are no national surveys in Japan that have determined the percentage of meditators. However, the average percentage of adults who meditate in surveys across North America and Europe is 15%.

Our formula for determining the number of meditators is Adult Population * (Global Average Percentage of Adult Meditators * Google Trends relative popularity)

The adult population of Japan is 109.57 million. Compared with other countries around the world, Japan has a Google Trends ranking of 20 for the term meditation. According to our formula, this puts the likely number of meditators in Japan at 3.3 million.

How many people in Brazil meditate?

An estimated 9.3 million people practice meditation in Brazil. The percentage of meditators in Brazil is 5.59% of adults.

There are no national surveys in Brazil that have determined the percentage of meditators. However, the average percentage of adults who meditate in surveys across North America and Europe is 15%.

Our formula for determining the number of meditators is Adult Population * (Global Average Percentage of Adult Meditators * Google Trends relative popularity)

The adult population of Brazil is 166.46 million. Compared with other countries around the world, Brazil has a Google Trends ranking of 37 for the term meditation. According to our formula, this puts the likely number of meditators in Brazil at 9.3 million.

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