Study: Mindfulness An Effective Treatment For Chronic Depression

  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • April 21, 2015 at 3:44 PM

A new study has shown that the practise of mindfulness can be just as effective as medication for treating chronic and recurrent depression.

The findings come from a newly released University of Oxford and Plymouth University study, which compared mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) with maintenance antidepressant treatments in 424 patients from 95 general practises in the UK.

Half of these patients were assigned MBCT and half were assigned maintenance antidepressants on a random basis, and then monitored for 24 months. The results of the trial, published in The Lancet medical journal, concluded:

“Both treatments were associated with enduring positive outcomes in terms of relapse or recurrence, residual depressive symptoms, and quality of life.”

The implications of the research are that people experiencing ongoing or recurrent depression could now consider mindfulness as a legitimate treatment instead of (or in conjunction with) medicated antidepressants.

“Currently, maintenance antidepressant medication is the key treatment for preventing relapse, reducing the likelihood of relapse or recurrence by up to two-thirds when taken correctly,” study co-author Prof Richard Byng, from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry says in a press statement.

“However, there are many people who, for a number of different reasons, are unable to keep on a course of medication for depression. Moreover, many people do not wish to remain on medication for indefinite periods, or cannot tolerate its side-effects.”

While mindfulness has become more mainstream over the past few years –helped, in part by the shining endorsements of its benefits from people as diverse as Steve Jobs, Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Michael Jordan and Bill Clinton – there is still not a lot of academic and scientific research to back up its effectiveness for treating different health conditions, as this study points out.

“Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to reduce risk of relapse or recurrence compared with usual care, but has not yet been compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in a definitive trial,” the summary on The Lancet website says.

But now there is a possibility that more doctors and healthcare professionals can start considering and recommending mindfulness therapies for patients experiencing depression – giving them a choice beyond medication.

For support for you or someone you know experiences depression, there are resources and support on beyondblue, lifeline and the Australian Government’s mindhealthconnect website.

Images: Photo of a man sungazing, credit: Sandy Chase (Wikimedia Commons); photo of a woman meditating, credit: jhoc.

Comments (1)
  • April 23, 2015 at 12:15 AM

    For anybody who doubts how powerful mindfulness is, take a look at the blog post by James Gordon. He totally explains the science behind how a negative mind fuels depression and how your thoughts are literally designing your future.