Exercise helps depressed dementia patients, new study shows

Exercise and socialising with friends can lift depression for patients with dementia, new study shows

  • Researchers examined different treatments given to more than 28,000 patients
  • They found medication such as antidepressants did not improve symptoms
  • Non-drug interventions, including exercise, massage therapy, animal therapy and ‘social prescribing’ of activities such as singing groups were helpful
  • The study urged doctors and patients to move to other forms of therapy 

Doctors should prescribe exercise and social activities instead of drugs to treat depression in people with dementia, a study has found.

Researchers examined different treatments given to more than 28,000 patients with dementia who suffered from loneliness or depression.

They found medication such as antidepressants did not improve symptoms but non-drug interventions, including exercise, massage therapy, animal therapy and ‘social prescribing’ of activities such as singing groups or gardening classes, were helpful.

The study urged doctors and patients to move to other forms of therapy.

It said: ‘Non-drug approaches were associated with a meaningful reduction in symptoms of depression in people with dementia and without a diagnosis of a major depressive disorder.’ 

Doctors should prescribe exercise and social activities instead of drugs to treat depression in people with dementia, a study has found (stock image)

Around 850,000 in the UK have dementia and it is common for people with the condition to have depression and feel lonely.

The University of Toronto study, published in the British Medical Journal, adds to mounting evidence that social prescribing is more effective than drugs at treating a range of conditions.

Social prescribing has been shown to help those suffering from depression, alcoholism, heart disease and loneliness. 

In 2019, the Government started the £5million National Academy for Social Prescribing, aiming to send almost one million patients for singing, gardening or art classes in the next few years.

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