Background: The current lack of an effective cure for dementia would exacerbate its prevalence and incidence globally. Growing evidence has linked mindfulness to cognitive and psychological improvements that could be relevant for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
Objective: To investigate whether mindfulness practice can improve health outcomes of MCI.
Methods: The study is the first longitudinal mixed-methods observational study with a one-year follow-up period, that customized an eight-week group-based mindfulness training program for older adults with MCI (n = 14). Measures included cognitive function, psychological health, trait mindfulness, adherence to mindfulness practice, and everyday activities functioning as assessed at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and one-year follow-up. Repeated measures ANOVAs, Pearson's correlation analyses, and Mann-Whitney U tests were performed.
Results: The MCI participants showed significant improvements in cognitive function (p < 0.05) and trait mindfulness (p < 0.05) after completing the intervention. Between program intervention and one-year follow-up (59 weeks), positive correlations were found between their cognitive function (p < 0.05) and everyday activities functioning (p < 0.05) with the duration of mindfulness meditation; and between trait mindfulness and the level of informal mindfulness practice (p < 0.05). Those who meditated more during these 59 weeks, showed greater improvements in cognitive function (p < 0.05) and everyday activities functioning (p < 0.05), with large effect sizes at the one-year follow-up. Qualitative findings will be reported separately.
Conclusion: Long-term mindfulness practice may be associated with cognitive and functional improvements for older adults with MCI. Mindfulness training could be a potential efficacious non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention for MCI.
Keywords: Activities of daily living; Alzheimer’s disease; anxiety; cognition; dementia; depression; meditation; mild cognitive impairment; mindfulness.