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Tai Chi Chih treats elderly depression

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Tai Chi Chih for elderly depression

Tai Chi Chih is found to treat depression in elders that affects 2 million individuals age 65 and older. Findings from researchers suggest practicing Tai chi can lift depression and improve quality of life for senior citizens, 50 percent of whom are living in nursing homes.

First study finds Tai Chi Chih lifts depression

The study is among the first to show Tai chi can lift depression in elderly populations.

First author Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry said, "We know that nearly two-thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication" and adds the researchers are encouraged by the study findings.

Tai Chi Chih also improved energy, quality of life

For the study, the scientists looked at the gentler version of Tai Chi. A combination of Tai Chi Chih and depression treatment with medication improved quality of life, memory and cognition and overall energy, compared to a group of adults given medication therapy and education classes.

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According to the principles of Tai Chi Chih, the benefits come from regular practice. It is not an exercise that lead to fatigue and is performed without much effort and softly. The practice is "taught at corporate wellness programs; schools and universities; at senior centers and retreat centers; through Parks and Recreation departments; and at hospitals, churches, and even prisons" according to taichichih.org

The study

The study, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, looked at Tai Chi for treating depression among 112 adults who were taking a common antidepressant, escitalopram, for one month. Seventy three participants in the group had partial improvement in symptoms and were assigned to 10 weeks of either a Tai Chi Chih class or a health education class for two hours per week.

Depression symptoms were evaluated in the Tai Chi Chih group and compared to those given education classes, using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression that relies on responses from interviews and uses a scale from 1 to 10/11.

The study found both groups of elderly participants had improvements in depression. Compared to the education group, those who took Tai Chi Chih classes were found to have greater improvement in depression scores. The authors suggest Tai Chi can treat depression in the elderly without the risks of adding more medications and could be used in combination with medication treatment.

The American Journal of General Psychiatry
"Complementary Use of Tai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31820ee9ef

This page is updated on April 18, 2013.