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Light Therapy for Adolescent Depression: A Scoping Review

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Depressive disorders in adolescents are a major health concern associated with developmental, social, and educational impairment. Bright Light Therapy (BLT) is a feasible and effective treatment for depressive disorders in adults, but few controlled trials have been conducted with children or adolescents. This scoping review focuses on the current state of knowledge for BLT in the treatment of adolescent depression. We reviewed the literature for novel data and methodologic approaches using BLT and pediatric and young adult populations.

Recent Findings

BLT is a tolerable treatment with few side effects. However, there is a marked lack of well-powered studies to support BLT as a treatment for depressive disorders in adolescent populations.


Given evidence of tolerability and positive treatment effect on depression in the adult literature, research is needed to establish the efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability of BLT in adolescents.

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Beck Depression Inventory


Bright light therapy


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CDI 2:

Children’s Depression Inventory 2


Children’s Depression Rating Scale


Hamilton Depression Rating Scale


Major depressive disorder


Randomized controlled trial


Seasonal affective disorder


Systematic Assessment for Treatment Emergent Events


Structured Interview Guide for the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale - Seasonal Affective Disorders, Parent Version


Short Mood and Feelings Questionnaire


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


Standard mean difference


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R.B., J.P., D.K.S., and K.J. received funding support from a Northwestern Primary Care Practice-Based Research Program (NP3) seed grant. D.K.S. also receives support from the Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders based at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. A.L. received the 2022 Washington University in St. Louis Career Center Internship Stipend Award. N.G. was supported in part by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) [grants NNX14AN49G and 80NSSC20K0243 (to N.G.)], and National Institutes of Health [grant NIH R01DK117488 (to N.G.)]. L.N.P. was supported by NASA grant 80NSSC20K0243.

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Correspondence to Dorothy K. Sit.

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Ballard, R., Parkhurst, J., Julian, K. et al. Light Therapy for Adolescent Depression: A Scoping Review. Curr Psychiatry Rep 25, 373–386 (2023).

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