October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. In recognition of this our posts this week will focus on mental health topics. Today’s post will examine recently published research on the use of acupuncture for depression.
Statistics from the NIH indicate that over 17 million adults in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode, which is about 7% of all U.S. adults. The prevalence was higher in females (8.7%) than males (5.3%). An estimated 2/3rds of the adults with major depression combined treatment with medication with treatment from a healthcare professional. Interestingly, about 35% of those adults with major depression did not receive any type of treatment.
An international group of researchers completed a review and meta-analysis of the existing research of the effects of acupuncture on depression. 29 studies and nearly 2300 subjects were included in the analysis. They studied the effects of acupuncture compared to usual care, to sham or fake acupuncture, to psychologist treatment, and commonly used medications (such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors). The studies included subjects from China, Hong Kong, Australia, the U.S. and UK.
After completing their analysis the researchers concluded that acupuncture was found to have clinically relevant benefit in reducing the severity of depression, when compared to usual care alone, to sham or fake acupuncture, and to medication alone. Importantly, the researchers also found a trend between greater acupuncture treatment frequency and reduction in the severity of depression.
As noted above over a third of those with major depression do not seek any treatment. Some of these individuals may well be trying alternative treatments. Given the results of this analysis perhaps some of those who do not currently seek treatment could benefit from acupuncture, or consideration of acupuncture as an add-on therapy to conventional treatment may offer additional help.
“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne.The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”– William Styron
(Source- Journal of Clinical Medicine 2019, 8, 1140)
This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.