Researchers have discovered that exposure to bright light could be just as effective for depressed elderly people as taking antidepressant medication. In the Dutch study, 89 people aged 60 or older with a diagnosis of major depression were given a light box to take home and instructed to sit beside it for an hour each morning over three weeks.
For half the group, the light it emitted was bright and blue, while others were subjected to a dim red light.
After three weeks, more of those exposed to the bright light experienced a lifting in their mood, measured using a standard psychiatric questionnaire.
But after another three weeks, during which the men and women no longer used the light box, the difference between the two groups was even more pronounced.
The bright light treatment group also displayed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and got out of bed earlier than the patients who received dim light, said the study by psychiatrists and neuroscientists from several Netherlands universities.
"Elderly people expose themselves less frequently to bright environmental light," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted study leader, Ritsaert Lieverse, as saying.
They might also absorb less light through their retinas and are more prone to medication side-effects.
The findings were published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.