Project Summary

Depression is a common problem that results in difficulties completing tasks and spending time with others. Treatment guidelines for depression recommend some psychotherapies or medications to help depressed adults feel better. However, these recommended treatments are not ideal because some people do not like them, people have difficulty finding or getting the treatment, or the treatments do not work well for everyone. Thus, people are interested in finding new treatments for depression.

Mind-body approaches to promote health and well-being, such as yoga, are becoming increasingly more popular. There are scientific studies showing that yoga can help depressed people to feel better, but it is not clear whether it works as well as other current treatments for depression.

In this study, the project team will see if yoga does as well as one of the therapies recommended to treat depression symptoms, namely a type of psychotherapy called behavioral activation (BA), over a period of six months. Second, the team will look at characteristics of people (e.g., depression severity, age, preference for one treatment or the other) to see if certain types of people may do better in one treatment or other.

The team will enroll 518 adults from four states in the United States with mild to moderate depression symptoms. The team will randomly assign people to either BA with a community therapist (who will “see” participants via video or telephone) or a remote (but live, in real time) yoga program hosted on a web-based Patient-Powered Research Network called MoodNetwork. After six months, the team will compare these two groups on depression symptom severity as well as other outcomes (e.g., well-being, anxiety, sleep, and physical functioning). These outcomes are important for people as they are markers for distress or ability to function in day-to-day life.

This study will help us to better understand whether yoga should be considered a first-line treatment for depression and could provide critical evidence for health insurance payers to consider yoga programs among their covered treatments for depression.

Project Information

Louisa Sylvia, PhD
Lisa Uebelacker, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital

Key Dates

December 2021
May 2028

Study Registration Information


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Last updated: October 18, 2023