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Anxiety and Depression Management for Seniors Using Yoga-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Y-CBT) (2018)

Khalsa, M1., Greiner-Ferris, J2. & Coyle, C3. (2018) Anxiety and Depression Management for Seniors Using Yoga-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Y-CBT). To be submitted for publication, January, 2018

Seniors often experience loss of loved ones, financial strain, serious illness and injury; these losses can often lead to debilitating anxiety and depression. The Center for Disease Control also reports that 50% of seniors in the community suffer with anxiety, and 15% are depressed. While it isn’t known how many seek help for their anxiety, it is known that only about 10% of those suffering with depression receive treatment.

Y-CBT (Yoga-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is a new research-based psychological program that integrates the scientifically documented effects of gentle yoga and meditation with traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. This combination of physical and mental activity appears to improve anxiety and depression: in two previous studies with a clinical population, Y-CBT demonstrated statistically significant improvement in levels of anxiety and depression for those diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and other comorbid diagnoses. The goal of the current study was to evaluate the effectiveness of Y-CBT for seniors who attend activities in senior centers, where the population is not necessarily clinical in nature, but where many may suffer from untreated anxiety and depression.

A total of 37 participants enrolled in the study and 20 were able to complete the self-report questionnaires. After the 6-week Y-CBT treatment,  significant improvements in anxiety and self-compassion were found for self-report pre-post test comparisons. There was also a significant correlation between the severity of depression and the amount of improvement in depression, with those who presented with higher depression scores, showing significant improvement. As Y-CBT was presented in a group format, reductions in social isolation may have played an important role and future research should explore this variable. Overall, the results from this study support the results of the previous studies with a clinical population and suggest that Y-CBT may have potential as a promising treatment for seniors who suffer with anxiety and depression.

Y-CBT for Seniors graph


1 Riverside Community Care, Outpatient Clinic, Upton, MA.
2 Riverside Community Care, Outpatient Clinic, Upton, MA.
3 UMass Boston Gerontology Research Department, Boston, MA.