Science

Light therapy effective for depression: study

A new study from the University of British Columbia has found light therapy to be effective in treating non-seasonal depression. “These results are very exciting because light therapy is inexpensive, easy to access and use and comes with few side effects,” says Dr. Raymond Lam in a statement, a UBC professor and psychiatrist at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. It is the first placebo-controlled trial that shows light therapy to treat depression not brought on by seasonal affective disorder – a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter caused by a lack of light. Lam and his colleagues followed 122 patients and evaluated whether light therapy improved their mood when it was used both with and without the commonly prescribed antidepressant fluoxetine. The research involved light therapy exposure with a fluorescent light box for 30 minutes soon after waking up every day for two months. A group of participants were given placebo pills and devices instead of real therapies. Researchers found those taking light therapy had improved mood and provided the most benefits taken alongside antidepressants. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability with one in 20 people suffering from the ailment worldwide. Medications alone are effective but only in about 60 per cent of cases, according to researchers. Lam says, “it’s important to find new treatments because our current therapies don’t work for everyone. Our findings should help to improve the lives of people with depression.”