Acupuncture for depression?: A systematic review of systematic reviews

Eval Health Prof. 2011 Dec;34(4):403-12. doi: 10.1177/0163278710386109. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


Acupuncture is often advocated as a treatment for depression, and several trials have tested its effectiveness. Their results are contradictory and even systematic reviews of these data do not arrive at uniform conclusions. The aim of this review is to critically evaluate all systematic reviews of the subject with a view of assisting clinical decisions. Thirteen electronic databases were searched to identify all relevant articles. Data of these systematic reviews and the primary studies they included were extracted independently by the two authors according to predefined criteria. Eight systematic reviews including seventy-one primary studies were found. Five of the reviews arrived at positive conclusions and three did not. All the positive reviews and most of the positive primary studies originated from China. There are reasons to believe that these reviews are less than reliable. In conclusion, the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment of depression remains unproven and the authors' findings are consistent with acupuncture effects in depression being indistinguishable from placebo effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Bias
  • China
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans