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Meditation may help reduce loneliness in seniors

August 21, 2012

Physical health is not the only component of healthy aging. Mental well-being is important as well, and a recent study suggests meditation may be one of the best ways for seniors to reduce loneliness and boost their immune system.

The research, conducted by scientists from UCLA, looked at the benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which focuses on being attentive to the present, on a group of 40 adults between 55 and 85. Over the course of two months, the subjects participated in a weekly two-hour meeting, meditated at home each day, and attended a day-long retreat.

By the end of the study, the team noticed a significant improvement in both mental and physical health. Participants reported feeling less lonely, and scientists also discovered lower levels of inflammation in the subjects' blood.

"Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression," said senior study author Steve Cole. "If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly."

The findings could have an impact on a large swath of the senior population. A recent study out of the University of Michigan found that almost 60 percent of adults over 70 experience some type of loneliness.