Tai chi treatment for depression in Chinese Americans: a pilot study

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Oct;91(10):863-70. doi: 10.1097/PHM.0b013e31825f1a67.


Objective: This study examined the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of using tai chi for treating major depressive disorder.

Design: Thirty-nine Chinese Americans with major depressive disorder were randomized into a 12-wk tai chi intervention or a waitlisted control group in a 2:1 ratio. The key outcome measurement was the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Positive response was defined as a decrease of 50% or more on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and remission was defined as a score of 7 or lower on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

Results: Of the participants (n = 39), 77% were women, and mean (SD) age was 55 (10) years. There were 26 (67%) participants in the tai chi intervention group and 13 (33%) in the control group. Of the participants in the tai chi group, 73% completed the intervention; no adverse events were reported. We observed trends toward improvement in the tai chi intervention group, compared with the control group, in positive treatment-response rate (24% vs. 0%) and remission rate (19% vs. 0%), although the differences in our small sample did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions: A randomized controlled trial of tai chi is feasible and safe in Chinese American patients with major depressive disorder. These promising pilot study results inform the design of a more definitive trial.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / ethnology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / rehabilitation*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tai Ji / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome