Mindfulness may improve cognition in older adults, new review reveals

A new review of evidence published by Silver Santé Study researchers has revealed that mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults.

The systematic review and meta-analysis, published in Neuropsychology Review, found that, while mindfulness is normally aimed at improving mental health and well-being, it may also provide additional cognitive benefits to brain health.

The researchers reviewed previously published studies of mindfulness, and identified 45 studies that fit their criteria, incorporating a total of 2,238 study participants. Each study tested the effects of a mindfulness-based intervention delivered by a facilitator in a group setting.  Most of the studies involved a certified instructor teaching participants techniques such as sitting meditation, mindful movement and body scan, generally on a weekly basis across six to 12 weeks, while also asking participants to continue the practices on their own time.

The researchers found that overall, mindfulness provided a small but significant benefit to cognition.

Tim Whitfield, of the University College, London, who led the review, said: “The positive effects of mindfulness-based programmes (MBPs) on mental health are already relatively well-established. Here, our findings suggest that a small benefit is also conferred to cognition, at least among older adults.”

Subgroup analysis revealed that the effect was slightly stronger for people over 60, while there was not a significant effect for people under 60.

“This finding is exciting, because we all slow down mentally as we age, while others experience serious brain diseases resulting in dementia. The finding that MBPs might help mental abilities in older adults was thus particularly encouraging,” Tim concludes.

Full details of the study can be viewed here.

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