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Mindfulness 'as good as drugs for preventing depression relapse'

1:00pm Tuesday 21st April 2015 content supplied byNHS Choices

The results remind us that treatments to prevent depression relapse in this high-risk group don't have a high success rate. Between four and five people out of every 10 in the trial relapsed, regardless of their treatment.

Depending on your perspective, the treatments were equally good or equally bad. This highlights that people at high risk of relapse need to receive tailored care and regular follow-up so they can find the best treatment approach for them.

But this study has a number of limitations. As the researchers say, the people in the trial were all willing to try a psychological treatment and try reducing their antidepressant dose. This may mean the results are not generalisable to all people at high risk of depression relapse.

The people in the study had also already tried antidepressants for relapse prevention. They are not the same as people who are considering relapse prevention for the first time and are discussing the first option to use in preventing further episodes.

There was also no control comparison to MBCT. That is, a control intervention where the person still received the same regular group sessions, but without the specific components of the MBCT intervention.

This means it is less able to provide solid proof that the mindfulness intervention is as good as antidepressants for most people with major depression, or whether it is just the regular attention and follow-up that has an effect.

Simply talking to a person could have a significant placebo effect that may improve mood. Larger and longer studies are needed to know this for sure.

This mindfulness intervention was designed specifically to prevent relapses of major depression in those considered to be high risk.

It is not designed or tested to prevent depression in the first place, prevent relapse in lower-risk groups (such as those with only one previous episode of depression), and was not being tested here as an initial treatment for depression.

If you are concerned you are depressed, it is usually recommended that the first person you talk to about your concerns is your GP.

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on Twitter. Join the Healthy Evidence forum.


"Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be as good as pills at stopping people relapsing after recovering from major bouts of depression," The Guardian reports.

Links to Headlines

Mindfulness as effective as pills for treating recurrent depression - study. The Guardian, April 21 2015

Mindfulness can help prevent relapses of depression as well as anti-depressants, study claims. The Independent, April 21 2015

Mindfulness 'as good as anti-depressants for tackling depression'. The Daily Telegraph, April 21 2015

Depression: 'Mindfulness-based therapy shows promise'. BBC News, April 21 2015

Mindfulness therapy can treat depression as effectively as pills, doctors claim. Daily Mirror, April 21 2015

Meditation is 'as effective as drugs for treating depression': Mindfulness could be offered as an alternative to antidepressants, study claims. Mail Online, April 21 2015

Links to Science

Kuyken W, Hayes R, Barrett B, et al. Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. Published online April 20 2015

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