Mind-Body Interventions in Late-Life Mental Illnesses and Cognitive Disorders: A Narrative Review

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2019 May;27(5):536-547. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2018.10.020. Epub 2018 Nov 3.


Background: Current pharmacological treatments and psychotherapeutic approaches often have adverse effects or are ineffective in late-life cognitive and mental illnesses. Mind-body interventions offer a holistic approach and are of interest because of potential patient acceptability and scalability.

Objective: To synthesize current evidence on mind-body interventions in treating or preventing mental illnesses and cognitive disorders in older adults.

Search strategy: A search was conducted using Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsycINFO articles published from 1993 to 2017.

Selection criteria: 1) Randomized controlled trials, 2) involving older adults (>60 years old), 3) suffering from mental illness or cognitive decline, 4) comparing mind-body interventions with a control group. Mind-body interventions included: imagery, meditation, prayer, autogenic training, tai chi & variants, and yoga. Control group included: health education, other non-pharmacological interventions, treatment as usual, or no treatment at all.

Data collection and analysis: Data included number of patients, age, psychiatric diagnoses, type of intervention, frequency andduration, control conditions, outcomes measures and treatment results.

Results: 3916 articles were reviewed and ten met inclusion criteria. Six were on Tai Chi and four assessed meditation-based therapies. Clinically significant improvement in depressive and anxiety symptoms were reported, as well as improvement insomedomains of cognition and reduced risk of cognitive deterioration.

Conclusion: There is increasing evidence that mind-body interventions may potentially be useful in the treatment or prevention of geriatric mental illnesses and cognitive disorders. There are important methodological limitations of the current literature such as small sample sizes, heterogeneous study populations, and varying clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Retracted Publication

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mind-Body Therapies* / methods