Non-pharmacological depression therapies for older Chinese adults: A systematic review & meta-analysis

Arch Gerontol Geriatr. May-Jun 2020;88:104037. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2020.104037. Epub 2020 Feb 25.


Purpose: To conduct a systematic review of randomized controlled trials to evaluate the evidence for the use of non-pharmacological depression therapies in older Chinese adults.

Materials and methods: The population was individuals of Chinese extraction over the age of 60 who meet the criteria for depression. The review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA). Six healthcare databases were systematically searched for publications to the end date July 2018. Included study variables were extracted and methodological quality assessments were performed. Ten studies reported sufficient data for meta-analysis.

Results: Fifteen experimental and quasi-experimental studies fulfilled the selection criteria (N = 904 participants). Twelve studies provided sufficient data to evaluate the therapies using Effect Size (ES) (Cohen'sd); ranged from low to high. In the Qigong studies ES varied d = 0.31-0.81, Reminiscence d = 0.20-2.37, and for single studies of Tai Chi d = 1.7 and for Life Story d = 1.46. From the meta-analyses, Qigong was the only treatment that had a significant effect on the severity of depression (Z = -4.47, p < 0.01) with acceptable statistical heterogeneity between studies (I2 = 52 %).

Conclusion: Overall, there was a large methodological heterogeneity between studies attributed to differing treatments, duration and designs. Reminiscence and Life Story showed an overall effect from a range of measures, as did the exercise therapies Qigong and Tai Chi. Qigong was the only therapy having a significant effect on depression. This therapy may be useful to alleviate depression due to the group and social interaction.

Keywords: Chinese older adult; Depression; Health outcome; Non-pharmacological therapy; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Databases, Factual
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Qigong*
  • Tai Ji*