Can Mindfulness Help Loneliness?

Mindfulness meditation reduces loneliness in older adults

(RxWiki News) Loneliness among older individuals can be a significant risk factor for health problems like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and even death.

A study looked at the impact of mindfulness meditation - an ancient Buddhist practice that focuses on a calm awareness of the mind and body -  on loneliness in older adults.

Previous behavioral interventions did little to help loneliness, but researchers found that mindfulness training reduced feelings of loneliness.

"Find a professional to teach you mindfulness meditation"

Carnegie Mellon University's J. David Creswell, PhD, professor in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, investigated the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation training on loneliness in older individuals.

Forty healthy adults aged 55 to 85 enrolled in Dr. Creswell's study based on their expressed interest in learning mindfulness meditation. The research team used an established loneliness scale to assess each participant before and after the study.

The participants were then randomly assigned to either receive the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or no treatment at all. 

For those in the MBSR program, two-hour weekly meetings were required to learn breathing techniques, body awareness and emotional awareness. The participants were also asked to attend a day-long retreat and practice their meditations individually for 30 minutes each day.

The research team found that the mindfulness training reduced the distress and negative emotions of loneliness in the participants after the eight-week period, while those not receiving MBSR training had slight increases in feelings of loneliness. 

"Loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems and mortality in older adults. This research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults" said Dr. Creswell.

The study was published July 20 in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. The National Institutes of Health, the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA and the Inflammatory Biology Care Laboratory of the UCLA Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center funded this research.

The researchers state no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 26, 2012