Can mindfulness-based interventions influence cognitive functioning in older adults? A review and considerations for future research

Lotte Berk*, Martin van Boxtel, Jim van Os

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

22 Citations (Web of Science)
362 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVES: An increased need exists to examine factors that protect against age-related cognitive decline. There is preliminary evidence that meditation can improve cognitive function. However, most studies are cross-sectional and examine a wide variety of meditation techniques. This review focuses on the standard eight-week mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

METHOD: We searched the PsychINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science, COCHRANE, and PubMed databases to identify original studies investigating the effects of MBI on cognition in older adults.

RESULTS: Six reports were included in the review of which three were randomized controlled trials. Studies reported preliminary positive effects on memory, executive function and processing speed. However, most reports had a high risk of bias and sample sizes were small. The only study with low risk of bias, large sample size and active control group reported no significant findings.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that eight-week MBI for older adults are feasible, but results on cognitive improvement are inconclusive due a limited number of studies, small sample sizes, and a high risk of bias. Rather than a narrow focus on cognitive training per se, future research may productively shift to investigate MBI as a tool to alleviate suffering in older adults, and to prevent cognitive problems in later life already in younger target populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1120
Number of pages8
JournalAging & Mental Health
Issue number11
Early online date9 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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