Meditation has been growing in popularity around the world for decades now. And of course, meditation has historical roots in countries like India, China, Korea and Japan.
But where is meditation most popular today?
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While no reliable global surveys have been done on the popularity of meditation across the world, we can understand its relative popularity across countries through a source that’s been collecting data for a couple of decades now: Google Trends.
Let’s jump to the top countries for meditation, and then circle back to methodology that determined them.
Where is meditation most popular around the world?
Here’s a map of the most popular countries for meditation around the world:
Which country meditates the most? Australia.
* According to Google Trends data. (See methodology in the section below).
Here’s the ranking of the most popular countries for meditation:
- New Zealand
- United States
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- Hong Kong
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
Methodology to rank countries by meditation popularity
1. Using relative popularity to determine the top countries for meditation
With Google Trends, it’s possible to gather data based on relative popularity.
In our case, this means that the number of searches for meditation is weighed against the total number of searches in the country.
That helps make sure the search volume from high population countries like Brazil aren’t drowning out lower population countries like Singapore.
2. Adjusting for multiple languages
A challenge in producing this data is accounting for multiple languages, since of course, people are likely to search for “meditation” in their own language rather than in English.
We were able to search for the same word in multiple languages, to ensure that we’re not only getting English-speaking results. Ten languages was the maximum we were able to add, so we added the most commonly spoken languages around the world, excluding languages like French in which the word is the same as in English. That means there is still some bias in this data towards countries that either speak English or speak the most-spoken languages in the world.
We attempted to counteract this bias by swapping in other languages around the world to see if the rankings changed. Generally, there was no change, with the exception of Vietnam and Thailand. 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:
3. Why don’t East Asian countries rank higher?
Given East Asia’s historical ties to Buddhism and Buddhism’s relationship to meditation, we were surprised to see lower-than-expected rankings for countries like Japan, South Korea and the southeast Asian countries.
We included Chinese, Korean, and Japanese in the initial search, and then swapped out languages one at a time to test Thai, Vietnamese, Khmer, Laotian and Burmese. After doing that, we found that Vietnam jumped significantly higher in the rankings (both here and on our Most Popular Cities for Meditation list). Thailand jumped a few places higher. Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar didn’t show up, even when the languages spoken in those countries were added.
While this is surprising given this region’s historical ties to meditation, one issue with this data is that Google is blocked in China, and isn’t the dominant search engine in South Korea. So although that shouldn’t change the relative search volume, the sample size for those two countries is smaller than we’d expect. More importantly, meditation, while historically integrated into East Asian culture, hasn’t always been seen as something practiced by the general population. So while you might expect meditation to be especially popular in places like Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul, that isn’t necessarily the case, especially since meditation has grown rapidly over the last two decades in other countries around the world.
As the modern mindfulness meditation movement grows, we can expect this data to change.