A new study in Canada revealed that bright light therapy can not only be effective in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter blues, but it can also help treat other kinds of depression.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that light therapy treatment either alone or with antidepressants can be helpful in treating adults with major depressive disorder (MDD). This disorder is ranked as the second cause of disability all over the world as it affects five percent of the population, experts said.
In a report issued in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers explained they recruited 122 individuals from different psychiatry outpatient clinics in Calgary, Vancouver, Saint John, and Toronto. The respondents of the study were aged 19 to 60 years old, and were all diagnosed with MDD.
The researchers classified the respondents into four different and randomized groups. The first group involved treatment with light therapy and placebo antidepressants. The second group involved treatment with placebo light therapy and antidepressants. The third group had a combination of antidepressants and light therapy. The last group had a combination of both placebo light therapy and placebo antidepressants.
The antidepressant used in the trial was Prozac. Participants were told to use a fluorescent light box for exactly 30 minutes each day at the beginning of their day. When the trial ended, the participants answered a diagnostic questionnaire so that researchers could assess their condition.
Researchers found that 55 percent of the patients in the first and second group saw their depression lift, while 76 percent of the patients in the third group who used both light therapy and Prozac saw their depression lift.
"What this shows is that we have another treatment option that's a non-medication treatment," said Dr. Raymond Lam, a psychiatry professor at UBC and lead researcher of the study.
Lam explained that the group's findings were important because current treatments are good but not effective for everyone. Data suggests that existing medications are effective in treating depression but these treatments only work in about 60 percent of cases. Lam said that other options should be available for people.
"More and more people are seeking help because there is less stigma about having depression," added Lam.
The authors of the study, which was funded Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), hope that their findings contribute to the improvement of the lives of people with depression.