Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Mood in Middle-Age, Older Adults

Mindfulness meditation training may reduce negative affect variability in middle-age and older adults.

Mindfulness meditation training may reduce negative affect variability (NAV) in middle-age and older adults, according to study results published in Stress & Health.1

While increasing evidence shows the effects of mindfulness training on wellness, few studies have tested the mechanisms of action of this intervention that lead to effects on psychological outcomes in older adults.2

Investigators conducted a randomized controlled trial to examine the effect of mindfulness training on pre- to post-treatment change in NAV. Data were gathered using ecological momentary assessment, which involves sampling individuals’ current experiences, behaviors, and moods as they occur in real time multiple times throughout the day. Investigators collected assessments at baseline and again after 6 weeks.

The study included 134 mildly stressed, middle-age and older adults who were assigned to a 6-week, one-on-one mindfulness-meditation (MM) training program or a waitlist control group. Participants were mostly women and primarily non-Hispanic white.

After 6 weeks, NAV decreased significantly in the MM group compared with the waitlist control group (F[1,99]=6.42; P=.01). Perceived stress was also significantly decreased in the MM group (F[1,124]=14.38, P<.001). However, the lack of an active control group makes these conclusions uncertain.

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Investigators concluded that, “the results provide additional evidence for the theory that mindfulness training facilitates a capacity to observe and experience internal reactions to stressors as they arise with acceptance and equanimity. Understanding the mechanisms by which mindfulness enhances well‐being among this population may inform and optimize interventions and elucidate characteristics of treatment responders.”


  1. Colgan DD, Klee D, Memmott T, Proulx J, Oken B. Perceived stress mediates the relationship between mindfulness and negative affect variability: A randomized controlled trial among middle-aged to older adults [published online November 20, 2018]. Stress Health. doi:10.1002/smi.2845
  2. Gu J, Strauss C, Bond R, Cavanagh K. How do mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy and mindfulness‐based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta‐analysis of mediation studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 2015;37:1-12.