Meditation could be the secret elixir for boosting well-being in older adults, new study finds

A new study shows that extended meditation practice can significantly boost wellbeing in older adults. Source: Getty Images.

If you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution to improve your overall sense of wellbeing in 2024 then meditation may be just the right activity to foster a more fulfilling connection with yourself and others and give those neurons a happy boost.

A new randomised controlled trial conducted by an international team and co-led by the University College London (UCL) has shown that an 18-month meditation program can enhance the well-being of older adults.

The findings were published in PLOS ONE and revealed that meditation is instrumental in naturally improving people’s self-awareness, relationships, and insights. 

Lead author Marco Schlosser (UCL Psychiatry and University of Geneva) explained the reasons behind the trial.

“As the global population ages, it is increasingly crucial to understand how we can support older adults in maintaining and deepening their psychological well-being,” Schlosser said.

“In our study, we tested whether long-term meditation training can enhance important dimensions of well-being. Our findings suggest that meditation is a promising non-pharmacological approach to support human flourishing in late life.”

Led by principal investigator professor Gaël Chételat, the study took place in France. As the longest randomised meditation training trial, it explored the effects of an 18-month-long meditation program on over 130 healthy French people between the ages of 65 and 84.

The researchers compared the program, which included two nine-month modules, one focussing on mindfulness and the other on loving, kindness, and compassion, with a group that did English language training (as a comparison group) and a no-intervention control group.

Participants attended two-hour weekly group sessions,  practiced at home for 20 minutes every day, and had a retreat day.

The study discovered that meditation training had a big effect on a score that measures the well-being dimensions of awareness, connection, and insight into how aware – the three things that can significantly influence your psychological well-being. 

But when comparing meditation training to learning English, neither program showed greater benefits for psychological well-being. Additionally, neither method had a significant impact on another measure of mental wellness.

The researchers believe this might be because existing measures used to assess psychological well-being don’t fully capture the potential positive effects of longer-term meditation practice, like increased awareness, connection with others, and gaining deeper insights about oneself and the world.

Furthermore, the study did not impact all participants equally. Some who reported lower levels of well-being at the trial’s start showed more improvements than those who started out feeling well, happy, and connected.

Regarding the trial’s results, co-author Dr Natalie Marchant from UCL Psychiatry said, “We hope that further research will clarify which people are most likely to benefit from meditation training, as it may confer stronger benefits on some specific groups.”

“Now that we have evidence that meditation training can help older adults, we hope that further refinements in partnership with colleagues from other research disciplines could make meditation programs even more beneficial,” Marchant said.

Senior author Dr. Antoine Lutz from Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, concluded, “By showing the potential of meditation programs, our findings pave the way for more targeted and effective programs that can help older adults flourish, as we seek to go beyond simply preventing disease or ill-health, and instead take a holistic approach to helping people across the full spectrum of human well-being.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.





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