Improvement in depression scores after 1 hour of light therapy treatment in patients with seasonal affective disorder

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012 Jan;200(1):51-5. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31823e56ca.


The purpose of this study was to investigate possible rapid effects of light therapy on depressed mood in patients with seasonal affective disorder. Participants received 1 hour of bright light therapy and 1 hour of placebo dim red light in a randomized order crossover design. Depressed mood was measured at baseline and after each hour of light treatment using two self-report depression scales (Profile of Mood States-Depression-Dejection [POMS-D] subscale and the Beck Depression Inventory II [BDI-II]). When light effects were grouped for the two sessions, there was significantly greater reduction in self-report depression scores by -1.3 (p = 0.02) on the BDI-II and -1.2 (p = 0.02) on the POMS-D. A significant but modest improvement was detected after a single active light session. This is the first study, to our knowledge, to document an immediate improvement with light treatment using a placebo-controlled design with a clinical sample of depressed individuals.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Phototherapy / psychology
  • Placebo Effect
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / diagnosis
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / psychology
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / therapy*
  • Self Report
  • Treatment Outcome