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Mindfulness

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 627–638 | Cite as

Meditation in Stressed Older Adults: Improvements in Self-Rated Mental Health Not Paralleled by Improvements in Cognitive Function or Physiological Measures

  • Barry S. Oken
  • Helané Wahbeh
  • Elena Goodrich
  • Daniel Klee
  • Tabatha Memmott
  • Meghan Miller
  • Rongwei Fu
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

To determine if mindfulness meditation (MM) in older adults improves cognition and, secondarily, if MM improves mental health and physiology, 134 at least mildly stressed 50–85-year olds were randomized to a 6-week MM intervention or a waitlist control. Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and 2 months later at visit 2. The primary outcome measure was an executive function/attentional measure (flanker task). Other outcome measures included additional cognitive assessments, salivary cortisol, respiratory rate, heart rate variability, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CESD), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness (NEO) personality traits, and SF-36 health-related quality of life. One hundred twenty-eight participants completed the study though visit 2 assessments. There was no significant change in the primary or other cognitive outcome measures. Even after statistical adjustment for multiple outcomes, self-rated measures related to negative affect and stress were all significantly improved in the MM intervention compared to waitlist group (PANAS-negative, CESD, PSS, and SF-36 health-related quality of life Vitality and Mental Health Component). The SF-36 Mental Health Component score improved more than the minimum clinically important difference. There were also significant changes in personality traits such as Neuroticism. Changes in positive affect were not observed. There were no group differences in salivary cortisol or heart rate variability. These moderate-sized improvements in self-rated measures were not paralleled by improvements in cognitive function or physiological measures. Potential explanations for this discrepancy in stress-related outcomes are discussed to help improve future studies.

Keywords

Meditation Stress Cognition Mental health Aging Adherence 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Roger Ellingson is acknowledged for engineering support. Jeff Proulx helped edit the paper. Preliminary results were presented at the International Conference on Integrative Medicine and Health 2016 annual meeting.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

There were no conflicts of interest by any authors. This study was funded in part by Oregon Health & Science University and by grants from National Institutes of Health (AT005121 and UL1TR000128).

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry S. Oken
    • 1
  • Helané Wahbeh
    • 2
  • Elena Goodrich
    • 2
  • Daniel Klee
    • 2
  • Tabatha Memmott
    • 2
  • Meghan Miller
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rongwei Fu
    • 4
  1. 1.Departments of Neurology, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Biomedical EngineeringOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  3. 3.University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.School of Public HealthOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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