Doctoral thesis
Open access

Effects of meditation training on psychological well-being in older adults

ContributorsSchlosser, Marcoorcid
Number of pages213
Imprimatur date2023
Defense date2023

We live in a complex world confronted with unprecedented existential risks, global pandemics, and a growing mental health crisis. Older adults present a particularly vulnerable group during these times – the physical, social, and psychological challenges associated with ageing are, today, compounded by the difficulties of navigating a fast and uncertain world. Understanding how older adults can maintain and deepen their psychological well-being amidst the challenges of ageing in today’s complex world presents a pertinent scientific question.

In this thesis, consisting of four empirical projects including two randomised controlled trials, we investigated if meditation training can positively impact diverse dimensions of psychological well-being in older adults.

First, we developed three theory-based composite scores of well-being in line with a recent model of meditation-based dimensions of human flourishing. Findings offer empirical support for the psychometric delineation of awareness, connection, and insight as meaningful domains of well-being.

Second, we tested the effects of an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), compared to a health self-management programme, on well-being in older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD, n = 147), who regularly experience reduced well-being related to concerns about worsening memory and risk of dementia. To measure well-being, we utilised the previously developed composite scores alongside two established measures of well-being introduced by Carol Ryff and the World Health Organisation, respectively. Findings suggest that the MBI was associated with only limited effects on psychological well-being.

Third, we tested the effects of an 18-month meditation training on well-being in healthy older adults (n = 137) using the same set of well-being outcomes utilised during the 8-week MBI. Findings indicate that meditation training, compared to English language training and no-intervention, improved a global composite score reflecting the well-being dimensions of awareness, connection, and insight.

Fourth, we developed and validated the 7-item Compassion for Others Scale (COS-7) in both English and German. The COS-7 is the first German measure of compassion for others published to date. The COS-7 was developed in response to prior work that questioned the validity of the Compassionate Love Scale, which was included in the meditation-based composite score used to measure connection in both trials presented in this thesis.

Taken together, this work suggests that longer-term meditation training can enhance important dimensions of psychological well-being in healthy older adults and could thus present a promising non-pharmacological approach for the cultivation of human flourishing. In contrast, shorter-term MBIs for older adults with SCD might be more limited in their utility for enhancing psychological well-being. I conclude by proposing conceptual and empirical avenues of inquiry that could help future meditation research transcend the limitations of the present work and refine the development and impact of tailored meditation training.

  • Meditation
  • Psychological well-being
  • Older adults
  • RCT
Citation (ISO format)
SCHLOSSER, Marco. Effects of meditation training on psychological well-being in older adults. 2023. doi: 10.13097/archive-ouverte/unige:173877
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Creation12/19/2023 12:45:23 PM
First validation12/19/2023 3:33:57 PM
Update time12/19/2023 3:33:57 PM
Status update12/19/2023 3:33:57 PM
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