Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults

October 31, 2018
Helané Wahbeh, ND, MCR

Wahbeh, H. Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults. Medicines 2018, 5, 119.


Background: Older adults have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress. Mindfulness meditation has the potential to be an effective treatment for depression, but little research has been conducted on older adults. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate depression symptom changes in older adults (55–80 years old) taking an Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) compared to a waitlist control. The secondary aims were to collect data on pain, perceived stress, resilience, mindfulness, sleep quality, and spirituality.

Methods: Fifty older adults were randomized to either the Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention, a six-week online intervention with daily home practice, or a waitlist control. Measures were collected at baseline, after the six-week intervention period, and again six weeks later after the waitlist participants completed IMMI. Adherence to home practice was objectively measured with iMINDr. Changes in outcomes for the IMMI and waitlist participants were compared. All participants who completed IMMI were then combined for a within-participant analysis.

Results: Adherence to the intervention was low, likely due to a traumatic event in the local area of the participants. Compared to the waitlist participants, those in IMMI had improved depression symptoms (p < 0.00005), perceived stress (p = 0.0007), insomnia symptoms ((p = 0.0009), and pain severity (p = 0.05). In the within-participant analysis of all data before and after IMMI (i.e., those initially randomized to IMMI and waitlist participants who took it), we found improvements in depression symptoms (p = 0.0001), perceived stress (p = 0.0001), insomnia symptoms (p < 0.00005), pain interference (p = 0.003), and spirituality (p = 0.018). A seven-week follow-up after the original six-week IMMI program showed sustained improvements in the IMMI participants.

Conclusions: IMMI improved depression and related symptoms compared to controls despite minimal support from study staff. IMMI offers a low-dose, low-cost, easily accessible mindfulness meditation intervention for older adults with depression symptoms.

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