Saturday, March 30, 2013

Qigong for Depression


A recent study by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University looked at the effects of qigong on depressed elderly patients with chronic medical illnesses. The study group participated in a 12 week qigong program and the control group participated in a newspaper reading program.

The authors looked at symptoms of depression, psychosocial functioning, muscle strength, and salivary cortisol and blood serotonin levels. The study group consisted of 21 subjects between the ages of 73 to 87 and the control group consisted of 17 subjects between the ages of 73 to 89. The study used the qigong set called Eight Pieces of Brocade (Ba Duan Jin).

After 12 weeks, the qigong group showed significant improvement in symptoms of depression, self-efficacy, self-identification of well being, and right-hand grip strength. A decreasing trend of cortisol level was observed, but the final level was not quite to the level of statistical significance.

The author's hypothesis was that the anti-depressive effect of qigong could be explained by improvement in psychosocial functioning and down-regulation of hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The authors concluded that their study provided preliminary evidence that supported their hypothesis.

Psychosocial functioning refers to our psychological development within a social environment. It is generally used to refer to the ability to cope with the complex and difficult issues that cause us stress. Improvement in this functioning means that qigong helps us deal with stress and maintain normal social functioning. In other words, it helps us stay sane in a crazy world. You can read more about this topic at Wikipedia. Click here. 

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis refers to a complex feedback and regulation process between these three glands. This process is a major part of our reaction to stress. It affects our immune system, mood, emotional response, digestion, and metabolism. Down-regulation of this process means that qigong helps us calm down our overactive emotions and be healthier. You can read more about this topic at Mind-Body Health. Click here. 

The study was published in the October 2012 issue of Aging & Mental Health. Click here.

© 2013 Eric Borreson