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Light Therapy Brightens Seasonal Blues

Review of 20 studies confirms it fights SAD

MONDAY, April 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- People affected by seasonal mood disorders can literally lighten up: A new review of 20 studies on the subject finds daily light-box therapy is an effective treatment for these conditions.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also concluded that light therapy for these disorders such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and non-seasonal depression provides results comparable to treatment with antidepressants.

In light therapy, patients simply spend a set amount of time each day in front of a special box emitting high-intensity light -- usually during sun-deprived autumn or winter months.

The UNC team reviewed 20 previously published studies, which accounted for just 12 percent of the 173 published studies the researchers originally considered for their review.

"We found that many reports on the efficacy of light therapy are not based on rigorous study designs. This has fueled the controversy in the field as to whether or not light therapy is effective for SAD or for non-seasonal forms of mood disorders," study author Dr. Robert Golden, professor and chairman of psychiatry at UNC, and vice dean of the medical school, said in a prepared statement.

"But when you throw out all the studies that are methodologically flawed and then conduct a meta-analysis of those that are well-designed, you find that light therapy is an effective treatment not only for SAD but also for depression," Golden said.

The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has more about SAD and light therapy.

SOURCE: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, news release, April 4, 2005
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