Epidemiological data from the United States of America are… depressing. More than 2 million people aged 65 years and older, have symptoms of depression. This includes up to 50% of the residents of nursing homes. Rate of suicide among white men over 85 years of age is six times higher than the population risk.
Depression is characterized by chronic and sustained despondence, accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of ability to feel pleasure. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the population is suffering from depression. It commonly manifests itself in individuals between 15 and 30 years old. However, children and elderly people are not free from this disorder. Moreover, we can observe two peaks of the depression diagnosis – about 30, and about 60 years of age. Episodes of depression have different duration and variable dynamics. Approximately 25% of them last less than a month and 50% less than 3 months. In addition, the disease has a recurrent nature. 75% of patients complain about symptoms of depression during the two years from the previous episode. Approximately 15% of the individuals commit suicide, over 50% of attempt to end their lives, and almost 80% have suicidal thoughts. The present forms of the depression treatment, are not only pharmacotherapy, but also psychotherapy or electric shock therapy. Alternative and supporting forms of treatment are searched, because despite wide armamentarium of strategies, they are not always effective.
Unfortunately, the society of the developed countries is ageing in the intimidating pace. In the next 35 years, the number of Americans over 65 years of age will double, and those above 85 will triple. Therefore, scientists from UCLA carried out their study towards methods of depression treatment. They are interested in Tai Chi – ancient Chinese martial arts. A group of older people suffering from depression treated with standard antidepressants and practicing Tai Chi regularly was compared with the group, which at the same time was attending classes of health education. It was found that patients who practiced martial arts showed smaller signs of disease, improved the quality of life, better memory and perception and more energy, than individuals treated with standard pharmacotherapy and health educated. The results of this study appeared in the online edition of American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The project enrolled 112 patients 60 years or older with major depression treated with escitalopram – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor for about 4 weeks. Among this group 73 people, who began to feel better with this pharmacological treatment were randomized to the Tai Chi practicing group and to group with classes of health education. These courses were held for two hours a week, within 10 weeks. All participants of the study were evaluated in terms of the level of depression, anxiety, quality of life associated with health, cognitive abilities and symptoms of immune system response twice – at the beginning of the test and again four months later. The level of depression have been assessed by the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, which result 10/11 corresponds to the diagnosis of this disease. It was found that among practicing Tai Chi 94% of patients achieved the result of less than 10 and 65% a result of 6 and less, corresponding to a remission. For a comparison, in the group of health education classes 77% of individuals obtained a result less than 10 and 51% signs of remission.
Study has shown that exercise of both body and mind, which is Tai Chi, helps in treating depression effectively. Daring plan for researchers is the gradual reduction of pharmacotherapy for Tai Chi.
1. Helen Lavretsky, Lily L. Alstein, Richard E. Olmstead, Linda M. Ercoli, Marquertie Riparetti-Brown, Natalie St. Cyr, Michael R. Irwin. Complementary Use of Tai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2011; : 1 DOI: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e31820ee9ef.
2. University of California – Los Angeles (2011, March 16). Tai chi beats back depression in the elderly, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2011/03/110316131122.htm.