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Psychother Psychosom. 2020;89(1):17-24. doi: 10.1159/000502891. Epub 2019 Oct 1.

The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
2
Competence Center for Eating Behavior, Obesity and the Psyche, Zofingen Hospital, Zofingen, Switzerland.
3
University Medical Center Freiburg, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
4
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, dietmar.winkler@meduniwien.ac.at.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Bright light therapy (BLT) has been used as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for over 30 years. This meta-analysis was aimed to assess the efficacy of BLT in the treatment of SAD in adults.

METHOD:

We performed a systematic literature search including randomized, single- or double-blind clinical trials investigating BLT (≥1,000 lx, light box or light visor) against dim light (≤400 lx) or sham/low-density negative ion generators as placebo. Only first-period data were used from crossover trials. The primary outcome was the post-treatment depression score measured by validated scales, and the secondary outcome was the rate of response to treatment.

RESULTS:

A total of 19 studies finally met our predefined inclusion criteria. BLT was superior over placebo with a standardized mean difference of -0.37 (95% CI: -0.63 to -0.12) for depression ratings (18 studies, 610 patients) and a risk ratio of 1.42 (95% CI: 1.08-1.85) for response to active treatment (16 studies, 559 patients). We found no evidence for a publication bias, but moderate heterogeneity of the studies and a moderate-to-high risk of bias.

CONCLUSIONS:

BLT can be regarded as an effective treatment for SAD, but the available evidence stems from methodologically heterogeneous studies with small-to-medium sample sizes, necessitating larger high-quality clinical trials.

KEYWORDS:

Bright light therapy; Meta-analysis; Seasonal affective disorder; Winter depression

PMID:
31574513
DOI:
10.1159/000502891

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