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Meditation May Help Fight Loneliness, Study Says
Date:8/24/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A simple form of meditation can help stave off feelings of loneliness and may cut the body's inflammatory response -- which can trigger serious illness -- to distressing emotions, a small new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that older adults who participated in an eight-week program of mindfulness-based stress reduction -- which attunes the mind to the present and avoids dwelling on the past or projecting into the future -- reported a reduced sense of loneliness on an established ratings scale. Blood tests also indicated a significant decrease in the expression of inflammation-related genes.

"I think meditation training can help [people] develop a new relationship to feelings of stress," said study co-author J. David Creswell, director of the Health and Human Performance Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon. "It puts a brake on this process ... and turns down the chronically stressed state people may be in, thereby turning down the pro-inflammatory cascade. I think it may be targeting the stress component of loneliness such that it doesn't blow itself out of proportion."

The study appeared online recently in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Previous research has linked feeling lonely to a heightened risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, depression and premature death, and higher levels of inflammation in the body may play a role. The study authors said the new research was the first to show that a psychological intervention that decreases loneliness also cut pro-inflammatory gene expression.

Forty adults (mostly women) between the ages of 55 and 85 were randomly assigned to either a mindfulness meditation group or a control group that didn't meditate. At the beginning and end of the two-month study, all participants were a
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