Meditation reduces loneliness, inflammation in elderly adults, study finds

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A meditation technique reduces loneliness and chronic inflammation disorders in seniors, new research shows.

A small study of 40 older adults found that a 2-month-long program that involved a psychological intervention called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) successfully decreased participants' feelings of loneliness, while at the same time significantly reduced expression of inflammatory genes, according to investigators at the University of California Los Angeles.

The mindfulness technique encouraged participants not to dwell in the past or the future, but be attentive to the present. Study participants meditated for approximately 30 minutes per day.

When investigators studied participant blood samples, they observed a reduction in pro-inflammatory gene expression. Inflammatory genes are implicated in numerous chronic conditions including heart disease and Alzheimer's, according to the study.

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

The research was published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.