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Study shows meditation effective to treat late-life depression

A type of meditation has been proven to effectively treat late-life depression, according to a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University.

The recent study utilized a Sahaj Samadhi Meditation (SSM), which has been available in India and many other places in the world for nearly 35 years, and was shown to improve symptoms of depression.  The study is the first of its kind to show SSM is beneficial as an adjunctive therapy compared to regular treatment options.

“Late-life depression affects 300,000 older adults in Canada and is a significant health challenge. As our population ages, we need to find sustainable ways to manage depression and meet the unique needs of these patients,” said Dr. Akshya Vasudev, an associate scientist at Lawson and associate professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “We wanted to determine if SSM, which is easy to learn and can be practiced in a clinical setting as well as at home, could improve depressive symptoms and heart rate variability, a physiological predictor of subsequent heart disease, in the elderly.”

The randomized clinical trial involved 83 research patients between the ages of 60-85.  The patients were either given the standard treatment or practiced the SSM technique. The patients were given four two-hour sessions taught by trained instructors, as well as 11 weekly follow-up sessions while also being able to practice on their own daily.

Those practicing the Sahaj Samadhi Meditation reported a significant improvement in the depressive symptoms compared to the group who received only the regular treatment.

“The meditation group had a three times higher chance of going into remission, no longer meeting criteria for depression, compared to usual treatments. In addition, there were no observed side effects,” said Dr. Vasudev.

The study was recently published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.