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The Academic Insight: Tai Chi to Treat Major Depressive Disorder

Written by David Carrigan
Published on June 1, 2017

A recent study has shown that the ancient practice of Tai Chi may contribute to reducing symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). This study, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, looked at the effects a 12-week tai chi program had on Chinese-Americans suffering from Major Depressive Disorder.

The researchers were particularly interested in this population due to their tendencies to avoid traditional psychiatric treatment. Tai chi is culturally accepted among this population and if shown effective could help those who otherwise wouldn’t seek out treatment for MDD.

The results of the study should significantly greater reduction in symptoms for the tai chi practicing group compared with control groups. Furthermore, a 24-week follow-up showed sustained improvement for the tai chi group.

Lead researcher Albert Yeung, MD, ScD, of the Depression Clinical and Research Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, added this thought after publishing the results; “If these findings are confirmed in larger studies at other sites, that would indicate that tai chi could be a primary depression treatment for Chinese and Chinese American patients, who rarely take advantage of mental health services, and may also help address the shortage of mental health practitioners. We also should investigate whether tai chi can have similar results for individuals from other racial and ethnic groups and determine which of the many components of tai chi might be responsible for these beneficial effects.”

 Further studying age-old practices, such as Tai Chi, with 21st century research methods, will progress our knowledge and treatment abilities for mental illness. Creating treatment methods that can be tailored to an individual and not implementing one size fits all treatment practices.

Information for this post was gathered from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170525103816.htm


Albert S. Yeung, Run Feng, Daniel Ju Hyung Kim, Peter M. Wayne, Gloria Y. Yeh, Lee Baer, Othelia E. Lee, John W. Denninger, Herbert Benson, Gregory L. Fricchione, Jonathan Alpert, Maurizio Fava. A Pilot, Randomized Controlled Study of Tai Chi With Passive and Active Controls in the Treatment of Depressed Chinese Americans. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2017; 78 (5): e522 DOI: 10.4088/JCP.16m10772

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