Lifestyle modification as intervention for seasonal affective disorder: A systematic review

Max Rothenberg, Barbara Nussbaumer-Streit, Edda Pjrek, Dietmar Winkler

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

Abstract

Bright light therapy (BLT) and pharmacological therapies currently represent the first line treatments for patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Lifestyle modifications offer a diverse field of additional intervention options. Since it is unclear, if lifestyle modifications are effective in SAD patients, this systematic review aims to synthesize the current evidence on their effectiveness and safety. We systematically searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing lifestyle modifications (nutrition, exercise, staying outdoors, sleep, social aspects, mindfulness methods) in SAD patients. We defined the primary outcome as the post-therapeutic extent of depressive symptoms, measured by validated psychiatric symptom scales. Due to the insufficient number of studies and the high heterogeneity of the interventions we were not able to calculate a meta-analysis. We identified 6 studies from the following areas of lifestyle modification: diet, exercise, staying outdoors, sleep and music therapy. All studies showed improvements of depression scores in the intervention as well as in the control groups. The risk of bias was rated as high for all studies and the certainty of evidence was rated as very low. The results point towards the possible effectiveness of the interventions examined, but due to the small number of studies found, too small sample sizes and methodological limitations, we cannot draw a valid conclusion about the effectiveness of lifestyle-modifying measures in SAD patients. Larger, high-quality RCTs are needed to make evidence-based recommendations and thus to expand the range of therapeutic options for SAD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-219
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Volume174
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2024

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