Posted on Sep 19, 2012, 6 a.m.
Following a simple meditation program can help to reduce loneliness and reduce the expression of inflammatory genes.
Loneliness is a common problem among older adults, and is known to have a significant impact upon both psychological and physical health. Previous attempts to develop treatments to combat loneliness have had limited success; however Steve Cole, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA, and his colleagues, have published encouraging results. They found that a two-month program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a form of meditation that teaches the mind to simply be attentive to the present and not dwell in the past or project into the future, successfully reduced the feelings of loneliness in older adults. Further research also revealed that MBSR also had a positive impact on the expression of genes and protein markers of inflammation, including a number of genes regulated by the inflammatory transcription factor nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB) and the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP). "Our work presents the first evidence showing that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also reduces pro-inflammatory gene expression," said Professor Cole. "If this is borne out by further research, MBSR could be a valuable tool to improve the quality of life for many elderly."
Creswell JD, Irwin MR, Burklund LJ, Lieberman MD, Arevalo JM, Ma J, Breen EC, Cole SW. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults: A small randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2012 Jul 20.