Depressive disorders are among the most prominent health problems in youth. Even with the best available pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments, remission rates are low. Without early treatment, depression in youth is associated with a high risk of symptom progression, chronicity, co-morbidity, and suicidal behavior. Thus, adolescent depression is a prime candidate for innovation in treatment. In depressive adults, meta-analytic evidence has proven that bright light therapy (BLT) is a potent low-threshold intervention, promising due to easy application, low side effects, and optimized compliance. In adolescents, studies with small samples show promising effects. This randomized controlled trial will examine the effectiveness of BLT in youth inpatients.
In this randomized, controlled, double-blind multicenter parallel group trial, morning BLT is applied for four weeks in addition to treatment as usual (TAU) for depressed youth inpatients (daily morning exposure to bright light via light-emitting glasses, 10,000 lx, for 30 min) and will be compared to a control condition (placebo light treatment, red light, identical light glasses). The primary objective is to assess whether BLT reduces symptoms of depression in youth with greater effect compared to placebo light therapy. Secondary objectives are to examine the impact of BLT on responder status, application of antidepressant medication, and further depression-related symptoms (sleep, activity, quality of life, satisfaction with health, general psychopathology, alertness, and circadian function). N = 224 patients will be recruited in a naturalistic inpatient setting. A follow-up will be carried out after three and six months.
The study aims to discuss and evaluate BLT as an additive method supporting standardized clinical procedures dealing with severe to moderate depressive symptoms in youth.
German Clinical Trials Register, DRKS00013188. Registered on November 30, 2017.