Decrease Depression Symptoms with Tai Chi

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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A new study consisting of a 12-week program of teaching and rehearsal of the Chinese martial art tai chi resulted to obviously diminished depression symptoms in Chinese Americans who are not receiving any other forms of treatment.

Boston’s Chinese community who had mild to moderate depression symptoms were enrolled to the program by the initial study’s investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2017).

Previous studies have suggested that tai chi could be useful in treating anxiety and depression symptoms, and many have used it as an additional treatment for other medical conditions but not to patients who actually have depression symptoms.

Knowing that tai chi can be effectual is definitely remarkable because it’s culturally accepted by the mentioned specific group of patients who usually avoid regular and traditional psychiatric treatment.

Tai Chi Study Focused on Those with Depression Symptoms Not Receiving Other Treatment

The process of recruitment for participants was made through advertisements offering tai chi for stress reduction. The participants’ eligibility for the study was established based on interviews and assessments of overall health and depression symptoms.

The eligible participants were Chinese-American adults who are fluent in either Cantonese or Mandarin who were diagnosed of having major depressive disorder in the mild to moderate range. They have no history of other psychiatric disorders, no current practice of tai chi or other mind-body intercessions, and no recent use of psychiatric treatments.


Participants Divided into Three Groups

Randomization was used to divide the participants into three groups. One group received the tai chi intercession. The second group was an active control group that participated in educational sessions that involved discussions about stress, mental health, depression in general, and depression symptoms in particular.

The last group was a passive control group that returned for repeat assessments during and after the entire period of the study. The tai chi intercession had twice per week sessions that lasted for 12 weeks. The participants were taught and practiced basic time-honored tai chi movements.

They also had to document their thrice a week practice at home. The education group met twice a week for 12 weeks as well. Members of both the education and waitlist groups joined free tai chi classes after the beginning of the study period, which they were informed of from the start.

Tai Chi Group had Significant Decrease in Depression Symptoms

Out of the 50 participants who completed the 12-week period of intercession, 17 were in the tai chi group, 14 in the education group, and 19 in the waitlist group.

The researchers have found that in the 12-week assessments, the tai chi group had an outstanding greater improvement in depression symptoms than the other members in either control group. There was also a follow-up assessment at 24 weeks, which exhibited sustained improvement among the tai chi group that had statistically remarkable differences remaining compared with the waitlist group.

According to Yeung, if the findings will be confirmed in larger studies at other sites that would communicate that tai chi could become a primary treatment of depression symptoms for Chinese and Chinese American patients who don’t usually take advantage of mental health services.

This may also be helpful in addressing the shortage of mental health practitioners in the country. The team is also hopeful to investigate whether tai chi can have the same results for people from other racial and ethnic groups.

They would also like to ascertain which of the many components of tai chi could be responsible for the beneficial outcomes, especially the decrease in depression symptoms.

If the team would be successful to continue their further aspirations for the study, it would be very beneficial for those who don’t want to undergo traditional mental health care and those who don’t have access to medical facilities. This could also become a part of the tele-health service. More people who have depression symptoms will be able to receive help in a very relaxing way.



Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker:

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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