A study has found that light therapy typically used to treat people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can also ease depression symptoms throughout the year.
Researchers found that patients with non-seasonal major depressive disorder treated with both light therapy and an antidepressant saw significant improvement, compared to those who received only one of the therapies.
The trial examined four treatment combinations: light therapy and an antidepressant; light therapy and a placebo pill; a sham light-box therapy with an antidepressant; and a sham light box with a placebo pill.
Patients receiving light therapy were exposed for 30 minutes each day during the eight-week study.
Light therapy has long been used as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, but its effects in patients with non-seasonal depression were not well-known.
Co-author Dr. Anthony Levitt, a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that adding light therapy to antidepressant medication reduced patients’ symptoms much more quickly.
“Light therapy is a low-cost treatment option with few side-effects, and our findings show it could benefit many patients with MDD,” said Levitt, adding that researchers were surprised by just how effective the combination treatment proved to be.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, involved 122 patients at centres across Canada and is believed to be largest study to date to look at the effectiveness of light therapy in non-seasonal depression.
The graphic below was provided by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
With files from Allison Vuchnich