Light Treatment May Even Help Non-Seasonal Depression

First Posted: Nov 20, 2015 05:00 PM EST

Health officials sometimes use light therapy to help treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD)--a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons and estimated to affect over 3 million. Yet a new study suggests that light therapy may also benefit some with non-seasonal depression. 

The study showed that 59 percent of depressed participants who received both light therapy and the SSRI medication fluoxetine (Prozac) showed remission, while 44 percent of participants who received light therapy alone and a placebo showed remission. Only 19 percent of those who received Prozac and a placebo light treatment showed signs of remission, while 30 percent of those who received both a placebo drug and light treatment did.

"This study is the first to show that light therapy alone is effective versus a placebo, and the first to compare combination light and drug to light alone," said lead study author Dr. Raymond Lam of the University of British Columbia, via Fox News. "The combination of light therapy and antidepressant was the most effective. However, some people may prefer to try a non-medication treatment first, and may elect to start with light therapy."

During the study, researchers tested the effectiveness of light therapy on 122 patients with non-seasonal depression. The participants received one of the following four different types of treatments, with those receiving Prozac taking a 20-milligram dose daily and those using the light treatment receiving a daily exposure from a fluorescent light box for 30 minutes each morning after waking.

Researchers, however, noted that one limitation of the study is that the patients' natural light exposure was not measured. Yet the study could still hold important implications regarding future treatment options for non-seasonal depression.

The study is published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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