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.