Light therapy could work for non-seasonal depression too, says study

Light therapy is an accepted treatment for seasonal affective disorder, but a study out of UBC suggests it could be effective against other types of depression too.

Light therapy already used to treat seasonal affective disorder, depression triggered by darkness of winter

A light therapy lamp in action. A new study from the University of British Columbia suggests light therapy could be used to treat non-seasonal depression as well as seasonal affective disorder. (CBC )

New research out of the University of British Columbia suggests light therapy could be an effective treatment for people suffering from depression brought on by all sorts of triggers — not just seasonal affective disorder.

The study followed 122 patients suffering from non-seasonal depression, and during both summer and winter months gave them either light therapy, a combination of light therapy and antidepressants, or a placebo.

"We found that the light therapy alone was helpful for people with this non-seasonal depression, but that the light plus antidepressant was even more effective," Dr. Raymond Lam, one of the study's lead authors, told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

"60 per cent of the people who got the combination felt back to their usual selves, or perfectly well, after eight weeks of treatment."

Dr. Lam says there was no difference as to whether patients got the treatment in the winter or the summer. He says 45 per cent of the people taking the light therapy alone felt back to normal.

Dr. Lam says this study is significant because while there has always been awareness of the value of light therapy in depression treatment, this was the first time anyone has done a placebo-controlled study on its effectiveness.

He hopes this research can lead to new treatment options.

"We have a lot of treatments for depression, but they don't help everyone. We need more treatment options," Dr. Lam said.

"And in particular, we need more combination treatments because we know a lot of people don't get well with just one treatment by itself."

He says there are still some unanswered questions about the relationship between light therapy and depression, and whether the same light therapy techniques should be used for seasonal and non-seasonal depression.


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Depression darkening your days? Study suggests light therapy as treatment