Bright Light Therapy May Treat Non-seasonal Depression

Bright light therapy, the application of blue or white visible light to the retina, has long been accepted as a first line treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter

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blues or winter depression. However, the use of bright light therapy for non-seasonal forms of depression has long been a hotly debated topic in the world of psychiatry.

A new study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) tested the efficacy of bright light therapy against the antidepressant fluoxetine, as well as a placebo, in combating moderate non-seasonal depression. Surprisingly, the fluoxetine on its own fared no better than the placebo, with positive responses equaling 33.3% and 29% respectively. Bright light therapy was significantly more effective than either the placebo or fluoxetine treatments, with a success rate of 50%. A fourth group, who were treated with both fluoxetine and bright light therapy, had the greatest positive response, with a 75.9% response rate to the combined therapy. The authors conclude that “Bright light treatment, both as monotherapy and in combination with fluoxetine, was efficacious and well tolerated in the treatment of adults with nonseasonal MDD. The combination treatment had the most consistent effects.”

The study was conducted over the course of four years, using 122 patients who had been diagnosed with at least moderate depression. According to the authors, the study 8-week long trials were “randomized, double-blind, placebo- and sham-controlled.”

Bright light therapy is a safe and inexpensive home treatment. Read reviews of bright light therapy lamps here.


Lam RW, Levitt AJ, Levitan RD, et al. Efficacy of Bright Light Treatment, Fluoxetine, and the Combination in Patients With Nonseasonal Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry.Published online November 18, 2015.

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