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We are about four weeks away from winter and so far there have been plenty of signs of the season upon us, especially with 20 cm of snow in the forecast for some.

Study: Light therapy may treat all depression, not just SAD


Leeanna McLean
Digital Reporter

Friday, November 20, 2015, 2:25 PM - We are about four weeks away from winter and so far there have been plenty of signs of the season upon us, especially with 20 cm of snow in the forecast for some.

Light therapy has long been used to treat the 'winter blues' or seasonal depression, but now a new study suggests the treatment could be used to ease symptoms of other forms of depression.

The research published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, discovered that light therapy alone or in combination with antidepressants are both effective means of treating adults with nonseasonal major depressive disorder (MDD).

MDD affects at least 5 per cent of the population, it is the second-ranked cause of disability worldwide and is associated with reduced quality of life and increased risk of mortality, according to the study.

Psychotherapies and antidepressants are both used to treat depression, however, remission rates remain low and medical professionals agree there is a need for more therapeutic options.

Light therapy is an evidence-based treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD). People diagnosed with SAD are often prescribed light boxes which mimic natural outdoor light. Researchers believe this type form of therapy causes a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD.


Researchers analyzed 122 adults between the ages of 19 and 60 who suffer from non-seasonal depression for eight weeks. The patients were given either light therapy, a combination of light therapy and antidepressants, or a placebo.

The severity of depression was assessed through a diagnostic questionnaire, which asked participants about sadness, inner tension, reduced sleep and appetite, lack of energy and suicidal thoughts.

"We found that the light therapy alone was helpful for people with this non-seasonal depression, but that the light plus antidepressant was more effective," Dr. Raymond Lam, the study's lead author told CBC. "Sixty per cent of the people who got the combination felt back to their usual selves, or perfectly well, after eight weeks of treatment."

In addition, 45 per cent of the people who were given light therapy alone felt back to normal.

Due to the fact that the trail was conducted during all seasons, this suggests light therapy could be used to treat several types of depression.

Dr. Lam hopes this research will lead to new forms of therapy, in particular, more combination treatments because they proved to be most effective.

Source: CBC | Study

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