Loneliness among the elderly has been linked with a multitude of health problems -- including heart risks and even a higher risk of premature death. But a small new study is shedding some light on a tool that could hep combat loneliness among this age demographic: Mindfulness meditation.
The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity, shows that eight weeks of training in mindfulness meditation is linked with decreased loneliness.
The study included 40 participants between ages 55 and 85, some of whom participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. People who participated in the program were also asked to do meditation exercises at home for a half-hour every day, and to go to a meditation retreat for one day.
Plus, the researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that mindfulness meditation had positive effects on the study participants' health, too.
"Reductions in the expression of inflammation-related genes were particularly significant because inflammation contributes to a wide variety of the health threats including cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases," study researcher Steven Cole, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, said in a statement.
Aside from alleviating loneliness, mindfulness meditation has also been shown in past research to have positive effects on the brain -- linked with brain changes that may even have effects against mental illness, according to a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study.
For more effects of meditation, click through the slideshow: