- Thursday, 16 August 2012
Research has shown that just half an hour of meditation every day can help the elderly feel less lonely.
This is because learning to focus on their current situation instead of worrying about the past or future can stop people feeling alone and unloved, a study claims.
A spokesman for the group of researchers from University of California, Los Angeles, said the finding could be particularly relevant to the elderly.
He said: "Spouses pass and children scatter. But being lonely is much more than a silent house and a lack of companionship.
"Over time, loneliness not only takes a toll on the psyche but can have a serious physical impact as well.
"Feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even premature death.
"Developing effective treatments to reduce loneliness in older adults is essential, but previous treatment efforts have had limited success."
The team of researchers, who published their results in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, split 40 men and women aged between 55 and 85 into two groups.
One group meditated for 30 minutes a day, took part in a weekly group class and went on a day-long retreat.
The other group continued their lives as usual.
After two months, the first group felt less lonely, while the second group felt more isolated over time.
Test showed that learning to live for the moment also seemed to improve health - as genes linked to potentially damaging inflammation were less active in the meditating group.
A drop in C-reactive protein, a compound linked to heart disease, was also noticed.
Steve Cole, senior study author, said the research showed a link between psychological intervention and a reduction in genes associated with inflammation.
He said that - if proved by further research - meditation "could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly".
Michael Irwin, UCLA researcher, said: "While this was a small sample, the results were very encouraging.
"It adds to a growing body of research that is showing the positive benefits of a variety of meditative techniques, including tai chi and yoga.
"These studies begin to move us beyond simply connecting the mind and genome and identify simple practices that an individual can harness to improve human health."
Experts claim that being lonely can be as bad for health as smoking or obesity, as previously reported by Mature Times.
Being alone can raise blood pressure, stress and the risk of depression, while weakening the immune system.
Feeling unloved can also make it harder to sleep at night and may even bring on the progression of Alzheimer's disease.