The benefit of combined acupuncture and antidepressant medication for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2015 May 1;176:106-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.01.048. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Acupuncture, one of the most popular complementary therapies, is best known for its ability to provide pain relief. Accumulating evidence suggests that acupuncture may also be beneficial in depression, although its effectiveness remains uncertain in this condition. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized trials in which the effects of acupuncture combined with antidepressant medications were compared with those of antidepressant medications alone in adults with a diagnosed depressive disorder. Thirteen randomized controlled trials involving 1046 subjects were included in the meta-analysis. Our results confirmed that the pooled standardized mean difference of the 'endpoint scores of the 17-item Hamilton rating scale for depression' was -3.74 (95% CI, -4.77 to -2.70, p<0.001) in week 1 and -2.52 (95% CI, -4.12 to -0.92; p<0.01) in week 6, indicating a significant difference in favor of acupuncture combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Moreover, therapeutic response rates were statistically significantly different between the two groups (risk ratio [RR], 1.23; 95% CI, 1.10 to 1.39; p<0.001; I(2)=68%) in favor of the combined treatment group. This systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that acupuncture combined with antidepressant medication is effective, has an early onset of action, safe and well-tolerated over the first 6-week treatment period. Moreover, this treatment combination appears to result in greater therapeutic efficacy than SSRI therapy alone. More high-quality randomized clinical trials are needed to evaluate the clinical benefit and long-term effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of depression.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Antidepressant; Depression; Meta-analysis; Systematic review.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy / methods*
  • Antidepressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Combined Modality Therapy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Humans


  • Antidepressive Agents