IMMI Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults

January 15, 2019
Nina Fry-Kizler, Science Team

IONS Director of Research, Helane Wahbeh, ND, MCR, recently published an article exploring the use of an online intervention using mindfulness meditation as a treatment for depression in older adults in the special issue “Mind-body Medicine Approaches,” of the journal Medicines.

The article Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults focuses on depression in adults between the ages 55-80 years old. While this population is rapidly growing in the United States and older adults are more likely to be affected by stress and depression, there has been little research conducted on mind-body interventions on depression for people in this age group.

Older adults have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress and depression. Depression in later life can have devastating consequences for the person themselves, their family and their community. Accessible and effective interventions for elders are needed. Mindfulness meditation is a promising intervention due to the low-cost, low physical and emotional risk, simplicity, and self-empowerment from engaging in the practice. There is a lot of growing evidence that mindfulness meditation is beneficial for many conditions.

In-person group mindfulness meditation has shown to improve stress and depression. However, the in-person group format can be a barrier for many older adults, either because they are reluctant to participate in groups or they may have limited mobility or access to local group classes. An internet format of a mindfulness meditation program would make the therapy more widely available.

IMMI includes a weekly six one-hour video session for 6 weeks that could be accessed online anytime and anywhere. Between sessions there are about 30 minutes of guided meditation home-practice accessed with an iPod iTouch provided by IONS. IMMI’s videos, workbook and home guided meditations help participants understand their personal reactions to stress, teach them skills to modify their stress reactions, and promote their desire for self-care and feelings of competence and mastery. Each session includes information on stress, relaxation, meditation, and mind-body interaction, formal and informal meditation practice and conversation about problem solving techniques related to the participant’s positive experiences and difficulties with practicing mindfulness. The mindful body scan and sitting meditation are examples of the formal practice. Mindful daily activities like washing the dishes or talking a shower are taught as informal practices to bring mindfulness practices into the participants daily life. The course also teaching a 3-minute quick coping meditation that helps participants deal with stress in the moment.

All participants in the IMMI group showed improvements in depression symptoms, perceived stress, sleep disturbance, and pain severity compared to the control. Even after the study ended, those benefits of the IMMI seemed to linger for participants. IMMI had positive effects on older adults with depression symptoms. Since IMMI can be accessed anywhere and anytime, this platform can be extremely efficient for older adults looking to treat their depressive symptoms.

IONS is currently recruiting older adults with mood symptoms for a study on a shortened version of IMMI. Please go here for more information.

Starting in January, we will be recruiting 100 older adults with mood symptoms for a full-version of IMMI. The intervention is administered online so you can participate from anywhere. Please email the research project manager for more information.

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