Meditation 'as good as medication' for relieving depression

Meditation as good as medication for depressionPic: Getty

With Brits' stress levels seemingly on the rise, depression has become a very real problem for many. But instead of heading to the GP for a course of medication, researchers suggest the answer could lie in meditation.

In a US study of previously published research involving 3,500 people, half an hour of meditation was found to be just as effective as anti-depressants when it came to alleviating the symptoms of depression.

'Mindful' meditation - a technique aimed at acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment - has been growing in popularity in the Western world, and many find that it not only eases their stress and anxiety levels, but can also help with pain.

But, as study leader Dr Madhav Goyal pointed out, "it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything".

The study focused on 47 clinical trials that looked at the effect of meditation on various health issues, including depression, stress, insomnia and substance use, as well as long-term problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain.

Researchers found that evidence of an improvement in the symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain after an eight-week training programme of mindfulness meditation had the same effect as a course of prescribed anti-depressants "but without the associated toxicities".

Though he conceded that further studies would be necessary to clarify which outcomes are most affected by such meditation programmes, Dr Goyal reported in JAMA Internal Medicine: "Meditation programmes appear to have an effect above and beyond the placebo.

"Clinicians should be prepared to talk with their patients about the role that a meditation programme could have in addressing psychological stress."

Have you found that alternative therapies helped you through depression, or did anti-depressants work for you? Leave your comments below...