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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy prevents relapses in recurrent depressions. New results from Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences place the effects of this psychological treatment on an equal footing with medicinal relapse prophylaxis.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is an effective manner of preventing depressions. This is the conclusion drawn by PhD student Jacob Piet and Professor Esben Hougaard from Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences in the first systematic meta-analysis, which gathers previous research on the effects of mindfulness in recurrent depressions.

An alternative to medicine
Systematic training in mindfulness has proven successful as a measure of prophylaxis for persons suffering from recurrent depressions. For these persons, the mindfulness training reduces the risks of a relapse by 34 per cent. This number increases to 43 per cent for persons who have previously undergone three or more depressive incidents. The results are noticeable, says Jacob Piet.

– The results can change the treatment in the future. Right now, patients who have undergone at least three depressive incidents are advised to continue sustained treatment with antidepressants, which they sometimes have to use for the remainder of their lives. Research indicates that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be equally effective in terms of preventing new depressive incidents, says Jacob Piet.

He stresses that there has been found no adverse effects in connection with the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, but rather that the treatment can have side benefits in the form of fewer depressive residual symptoms and an increased quality of life. For many recovering patients with a substantial risk of relapse, the mindfulness training can prove an attractive alternative to continued medicinal treatment, however, mindfulness does require an active commitment and a continued completion of the exercises.

Depression is a common illness with a lifetime risk of approximately 20 per cent.
It is a very agonising illness, which is also very costly for society.

WHO – the World Health Organization – estimates that the illness will constitute
the largest health economical burden in the Western world by 2030. Depressive
incidents can be effectively treated either medicinally or by using psychotherapy,
however, the risk of a relapse is considerable. For persons, who have previously
been depressed, the risk of a relapse is somewhere between 50 and 90 per cent,
and the risk increases after each depressive incident.
Effective prophylaxis is therefore a top priority.

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