Psychology

The Company of Mindfulness

Meditation has been found to diminish loneliness in older adults—something many social programs have failed to do. But how?

Photo © Flickr.com/Dr. TH80

For older adults, loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems—such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's. They even have an increased risk of dying. Attempts to diminish loneliness with social networking programs like creating community centers to encourage new relationships have not been effective.

However, a recent study led by J. David Creswell, Director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University, offers the first evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces loneliness in older adults. Published in "Brain, Behavior & Immunity," the researchers also found that mindfulness meditation lowered inflammation levels, which is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases. 

These findings provide valuable insights into how mindfulness meditation training can be used as a novel approach for reducing loneliness and the risk of disease in older adults.

Listen as Creswell talks about the study and its results. The video lasts about 6 minutes:

 

While this research suggests a promising new approach for treating loneliness and inflammatory disease risk in older adults, Creswell says more work needs to be done.

"If you're interested in using mindfulness meditation, find an instructor in your city," he says. "It's important to train your mind like you train your biceps in the gym."

Want to know more? Click here to read Elisha Goldstein's latest blog post, "Being alone doesn't mean you're lonely." Also see Only the Lonely, about a program for lonely older people and their caregivers.