A Light At The End Of Depression

A Light At The End Of Depression

As summer begins to wind down, we are seeing less and less of the sun. Some of us are beginning to think about the things we will need to do to prepare for winter but may not think about the impact of sunlight in our lives.

There are a number of interesting light devices available that claim to have a positive effect on mood. Research supporting the use of light therapy for the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) has been building for quite a while (Reeves et al. 2012). More recently the use of light is being suggested as a treatment option for other mood disorders such as (non-seasonal) depression and bipolar disorder (Golden et al., 2005; Lieverse et al. 2011). Some have even suggested that light therapy may improve vitality and reduce distress in winter for generally healthy people

The lights that are used for this therapy have specific properties to them, so we’re not talking about any old lamp you can pick up at the hardware store. A placebo control study found that fifty percent of patients using either the bright light device and the high-density negative ion generator experience remission from their depression while none of the patients using a low-density ion generator did suggesting that there was a real effect to the lamps being used (Goel et al., 2005).

Light therapy may be an interesting alternative or complement to medication and therapy in your depression treatment plan. This could be great tool to help get us through the dark, cold days of winter that will soon be upon us; it’s just too bad the glow of my laptop doesn’t have the same effect.


Goel, N., Terman, M., Terman, J.S., Macchi, M.M. & Stewart, J.W. (2005). Controlled trial of bright light and negative air ions for chronic depression. Psychological Medicine, 35, 945-955.

Golden, R.N., Gaynes, B.N., Ekstrom, D., Hamer, R.M., Jacobsen, F.M., Suppes, T., Wisner, K.L., Nemeroff,C.B. (2005). The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-Analysis of the Evidence. American Journal of Psychiatry 162, 656-662.

Lieverse R., Van Someren E.J., Nielen M.M., et al. (2011). Bright light treatment in elderly patients with nonseasonal major depressive disorder: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Archives of General Psychiatry 68, 61–70

Partonen, T., Lönnqvist, J. (2000). Bright light improves vitality and alleviates distress in healthy people. Journal of Affective Disorders, 57, 55–61.

Reeves, G.M. et al., (2012). Improvement in Depression Scores After 1 Hour of Light Therapy Treatment in Patients With Seasonal Affective Disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200, 51-55.


About the Author:

Dr Chow is a licensed clinical psychologist with a private clinic in Saint-Laurent (Montreal) and in Saint-Lambert on the South Shore. She received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Concordia University. She is also a member of the Order of Psychologists of Quebec.