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October 2012

Meditation May Ease Loneliness in Elderly

New research suggests that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) may benefit lonely older adults.

MBSR is a standardized, structured approach for teaching stress reduction in groups. The term was originally coined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., for a program used in pain patients that incorporated principles of traditional mindfulness meditation, yoga and body-awareness techniques. MBSR teaches the use of focused attention (often by using a physical sensation such as respiration) on only one target at a time. This practice has been shown to be effective in certain clinical applications, such as chronic pain.

The recent study recruited 40 healthy adults older than 55 years-old. Participants took a loneliness questionnaire and a blood test. The researchers then randomly assigned participants to the MBSR Group or a control group.

The MBSR group met for weekly two hour sessions with a MBSR trained clinician. The sessions consisted of meditation, yoga and discussion designed to focus on the present moment. Participants also practiced MBSR for half an hour at home daily. In the sixth or seventh week, participants in the MBSR group went on a daylong retreat.

After eight weeks, the MBSR group showed significant reductions in loneliness while the control group's loneliness did not change significantly. Genetic analysis also showed that the MBSR group had lower expression of genes linked to loneliness, compared to before the study. More research on this topic is still warranted.

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  1. Creswell, JD et al. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Oct;26(7):1095-101. View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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