Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that mindfulness meditation can reduce loneliness in older adults and lower their inflammation levels, which is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.
Mindfulness meditation is a 2,500-year-old practice dating back to Buddha that focuses on creating an attentive awareness of the present moment.
For older adults, loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's and death.
The study was published in journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity.
"We always tell people to quit smoking for health reasons, but rarely do we think about loneliness in the same way," said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
"We know that loneliness is a major risk factor for health problems and mortality in older adults. This research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults," Creswell said in a statement.
The researchers recruited 40 healthy adults aged 55-85 who indicated an interest in learning mindfulness meditation techniques. Each person was assessed at the beginning and end of the study using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples were also collected.
The participants were randomly assigned to receive either the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme or no treatment.
The MBSR programme consisted of weekly two-hour meetings in which participants learned body awareness techniques