A new study shows exposure to bright light may help in easing symptoms of depression in elderly people. Researchers say it's the first major study to show a beneficial effect of bright light therapy on treating depression in the elderly with non-seasonal major depressive disorder.
In this study, researchers evaluated the effects of three weeks of bright light therapy in 89 adults over age 60 diagnosed with depression. The participants were randomly divided into two groups and exposed to either an hour of bright pale blue light therapy or dim red light treatment (placebo treatment) from a light box at home during the early morning hours.
After three weeks of treatment, the study showed bright light therapy improved depressive symptoms by 43%, compared with the 36% improvement found with the placebo treatment.
Three weeks after the treatment ended, researchers found symptoms of depression continued to improve among the bright light therapy group (54% improvement vs. 33% in the placebo group).
In addition, the results showed levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased among people who received bright light therapy. Sleep quality also improved among the bright light therapy group.
Previous studies have suggested that bright light therapy can help restore circadian rhythms and target depression-related neurotransmitters in the brain.
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