Many elderly people spend their last years alone. Spouses pass and children scatter. But being lonely is much more than a silent house and a lack of companionship.
Over time, loneliness not only takes a toll on the psyche but can have a serious physical impact as well.
Feeling lonely has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even premature death. Developing effective treatments to reduce loneliness in older adults is essential, but previous treatment efforts have had limited success.
What to do? Researchers at UCLA now report that a simple
meditation program lasting just eight weeks reduced loneliness in older adults. Further, knowing that loneliness is associated with an increase in the activity of inflammation-related genes that can promote a variety of diseases, the researchers examined gene expression and found that this same form of meditation significantly reduced expression of inflammatory genes.