Local schemes, such as the opening of community centres designed to encourage social networking, have so far proven ineffective.
Now scientists believe the way to tackle loneliness isn’t to go out, but to meditate…alone.
The study, conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, involved 40 healthy adults aged between 55 and 85 who had expressed an interest in learning meditation techniques.
Each participant was assessed at the beginning of the study and again at the end, using an established loneliness scale. Blood samples were also taken in order to measure any chemical changes in the body.
Participants were then randomly split into two groups: one group received an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme, and the other received no treatment at all.
During the MBSR programme, participants developed self-awareness techniques through breathing and sensation exercises. They were also required to practice mindful meditation exercises for 30 minutes every day at home.
Results showed that those who received the MBSR treatment felt less lonely after the eight weeks than those who did not. The blood samples also revealed a reduction in inflammatory-causing genes.
Study co-author Steven Cole from UCLA said: ‘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.’
This is the first study of its kind to show that loneliness and immune cell gene expression profiles can be regulated by psychological intervention.
Mindfulness therapies work on the basis that the mind can be exercised just like your body can. To find out more, and to explore therapies available, please visit our Therapy Topics section.
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