Making lifestyle changes, such as taking up mindfulness or health self-management courses, can help improve the mental health of older adults who are already experiencing memory problems, according to a new scientific study.

The research, published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, studied the impact of an eight-week mindfulness or health self-management course on anxiety, which is associated with increased risk of dementia.

The volunteers, all with subjective cognitive decline (self-perceived memory problems that cannot be verified by testing), had anxiety levels measured before, directly after the courses and again six months later. The results showed that anxiety levels had reduced directly after both the mindfulness and health self-management courses , and the reduction was maintained at six months. No difference in reduction of anxiety was found between the courses.

Dr Natalie Marchant, of University College London, UK who led the trial, said: “Although we expected mindfulness meditation to have more of an impact on mental health, the results of our trial show that small but significant improvements in mental health can be observed after a short course of mindfulness or health self-management in people who are already experiencing some subjective cognitive decline, and the effects last for at least six months.”

The SCD-Well trial included 147 participants from memory clinics in France, Spain, Germany and the UK, with blood tests, cognitive assessments, and questionnaires used to assess the impact of the interventions.  The full details of the study can be viewed here.

Dr Marchant, concluded: “Our results offer an encouraging first step towards providing an intervention that could be used to reduce anxiety and potentially the risk of developing dementia which would benefit both individuals and society as a whole in terms of the associated emotional, health and social care costs of poor mental health.”

Hear from Jenny Cleary, of Loughton, Essex who took part in the SCD -Well trial after experiencing problems with her memory, by clicking on the image below.

SCD-Well clinical trial participant, Jenny Cleary, who took part in an eight-week mindfulness course.

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