Group-taught meditation is as effective as staying on drug treatments for stopping people slipping back into depression, say UK scientists.
Compared to one-to-one sessions, or medication, "mindfulness-based cognitive therapy" (MBCT) is cheaper for the NHS, they say. The trial of 123 people found similar relapse rates in those having group therapy and those taking drugs. The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
Recent years have seen much more evidence that so-called "talking therapies" can be as effective as drugs in alleviating mild to moderate depression, and health secretary Alan Johnson recently announced millions in new funding for the treatments. However, this is the first time, according to its authors, that a group therapy has been shown as an alternative to a prescription.
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, found MBCT, developed in 2002 by a team of psychologists from Canada, Oxford, and Cambridge, was actually more effective than medication in improving patients' quality of life. The sessions involve the teaching of meditation techniques based on some found in Buddhism.
The aim is to teach skills which help patients recognise and cope with their tendency towards depression.