Yoga may bring long-term benefits for people with depression

“Yoga can ease depression symptoms, according to the largest study to ever investigate the link,” the Mail Online reports.

The study didn’t find any benefits from doing yoga at the end of the 10-week study period, but there were improvements in symptoms at a six-month follow-up review. Because of the mixed results, these findings need to be interpreted with caution.

The US study included 122 adults with moderate depression who hadn’t responded effectively to antidepressants. They were assigned to 10 weeks of either yoga or health education classes.

The main outcome of interest to the researchers were changes in the participants’ symptoms of depression, as measured by depression scores, at 10 weeks.

The researchers didn’t find any difference between the groups at 10 weeks. But they did find a difference in terms of symptom improvements between the two groups when they compared the scores from 10 weeks with those after six months.

On their own, the results of this study don’t provide firm evidence that yoga is beneficial for depression.

There was no effect on the main outcome the study set out to examine, and participants had responded to advertisements, so likely had an interest in yoga to start with.

This could mean that they were more likely to be receptive to the idea yoga could have a benefit, so there could have been a placebo effect at work.

These findings don’t change current guidelines on the treatment of depression using psychological interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy, as well as antidepressants.

There is, however, evidence that exercise and practising mindfulness  – the two key tenets of yoga – may help enhance mental wellbeing.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Brown University, the University of California, and the Eyes of the World Yoga Center, all in the US.

It was funded by the US National Institute of Nursing Research and published in the peer-reviewed journal, Psychological Medicine.

The Mail’s coverage is generally accurate, but doesn’t discuss the study’s limitations in any detail.

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