Harvard Women's Health Watch

Meditation eases loneliness

When children leave the nest or a partner passes away, the person who remains behind can struggle with feelings of loneliness. Being lonely isn't just hard on your emotions—research finds it can also increase your risk for several medical conditions, including heart disease (see pg. 4). A study published online in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity finds that meditation could be one effective method for combating loneliness. Forty older adults (ages 55 to 85) were randomly assigned to either an eight-week meditation program or a wait-list control group. Researchers also collected blood samples to measure levels of genes related to inflammation. Not only did the meditation program significantly decrease loneliness, but it also reduced markers of inflammation, which indicates a benefit to the immune system (although the study did not investigate whether meditation reduced disease). This study was small and preliminary, but it does add to a growing body of research about the benefits of meditation and other relaxation techniques on mood.

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