Late-life depression (LLD) is a disabling disorder and antidepressants are ineffective in as many as 60% of cases. Converging evidence shows a strong correlation between LLD and subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease. There is a need for new, well-tolerated, non-pharmacological augmentation interventions that can treat depressive symptoms as well as improve heart rate variability (HRV), an important prognostic marker for development of subsequent cardiovascular disease. Meditation-based techniques are of interest based on positive findings in other samples.
We aimed to assess the efficacy of Sahaj Samadhi meditation (SSM), an underevaluated, standardised and manualised meditation intervention, on HRV and depressive symptoms.
Eighty-three men and women aged 60–85 years, with mild to moderate depression and receiving treatment as usual (TAU) were randomised to either the SSM or TAU arm. Those allocated to SSM attended 4 consecutive days of group meditation training, using personalised mantras followed by 11 weekly reinforcement sessions. HRV and Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD; 17-item) score were measured at baseline and 12 weeks.
All time and frequency domain measures of HRV did not significantly change in either arm. However, there was significant improvement in the SSM arm, compared with TAU, on the HRSD (difference in mean, 2.66; 95% CI 0.26–5.05; P = 0.03).
Compared with TAU, SSM is associated with improvements in depressive symptoms but does not significantly improve HRV in patients with LLD. These results need to be replicated in subsequent studies incorporating a group-based, active control arm.
Declaration of interest
R.I.N. is the Director of Research and Health Promotion for the Art of Living Foundation, Canada and supervised the staff providing Sahaj Samadhi meditation. S.R. has received research funding from Satellite Healthcare for a mindfulness meditation trial in patients on haemodialysis. The remaining authors report no financial or other relationship relevant to the subject of this article.