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PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39275. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039275. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

Cognitive and behavioral predictors of light therapy use.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.



Although light therapy is effective in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other mood disorders, only 53-79% of individuals with SAD meet remission criteria after light therapy. Perhaps more importantly, only 12-41% of individuals with SAD continue to use the treatment even after a previous winter of successful treatment.


Participants completed surveys regarding (1) social, cognitive, and behavioral variables used to evaluate treatment adherence for other health-related issues, expectations and credibility of light therapy, (2) a depression symptoms scale, and (3) self-reported light therapy use.


Individuals age 18 or older responded (n = 40), all reporting having been diagnosed with a mood disorder for which light therapy is indicated. Social support and self-efficacy scores were predictive of light therapy use (p's<.05).


The findings suggest that testing social support and self-efficacy in a diagnosed patient population may identify factors related to the decision to use light therapy. Treatments that impact social support and self-efficacy may improve treatment response to light therapy in SAD.

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