Friday, January 07, 2011

Light boxes might help with non-seasonal depression too

Light boxes are often used to help people suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). However, a new study by researchers from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam suggests that it may also be helpful for people suffering from non-seasonal depression too. In the study 89 men and women aged 60 and over were assigned to two groups. One group got genuine light therapy while the other group sat in front of a dimmer light which has no known effects on the body. After three weeks of treatment the group receiving the genuine light therapy showed an improvement in their depression symptoms - an improvement which was still maintained three weeks later. The people in the light-therapy group showed increases of the hormone melatonin - which promotes sleep - in the evening and decreases in their levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and the lamps were effective for people already taking anti-depressants. However, this was quite a small trial and there is a need for evidence that the lamps produce an improvement in symptoms over a period longer than three weeks.

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