Non-pharmacological intervention methods such as rehabilitation training or psychological treatment are mostly used in the treatment of depression owing to the limitation of adverse reactions such as drug treatment. However, the best non-pharmacological treatment strategy for depression in college students is unclear. Therefore, it is significant to discover non-drug intervention methods that can improve the depression symptoms of college students.
Electronic databases as of Sep 15, 2019, were searched, and reference lists and pharmaceutical dossiers were reviewed to detect published and unpublished studies from the date of their inception to Sep 15, 2019. With document quality evaluations and data extraction, Meta-Analysis was performed using a random effect model to evaluate the intervention effect of the aerobic exercise, traditional Chinese exercises, and meditation.
A total of 44 original studies were included. The random effect model was used to combine the effect values with Standard Mean Difference (SMD), and the results were: aerobic exercise [SMD = –0.53, 95% CI (–0.77, –0.30), I2 = 80%, P < .001], traditional Chinese exercises [SMD = –0.42, 95% CI (–0.74, –0.10), I2 = 90%, P = .01], meditation [SMD = –0.51, 95% CI (–0.90, –0.12), I2 = 79%, P = .01]. There was greater heterogeneity among the included studies: aerobic exercise (I2 = 80%, P < .001), traditional Chinese medicine methods (I2 = 90%, P < .001), and meditation (I2 = 79%, P < .001).
This study revealed that the depression symptoms of college students can be effectively improved by aerobic exercise, traditional Chinese exercises, and meditation. Aerobic exercise would have a better effect on anxiety and stress while traditional Chinese exercise would have a better effect on stress. Further research (such as high-quality randomized controlled trials and long-term follow-up) is required to evaluate the effects of aerobic exercise, traditional Chinese exercise, and meditation on the depressive symptoms of college students to further apply complementary and alternative therapies.
Ethics and dissemination:
The results of the effects of aerobic exercise, traditional Chinese exercises, and meditation on depressive symptoms for a college student will be reported in a peer-reviewed publication. Hopefully, our findings from this meta-analysis can provide the most up-to-date evidence for the contribution to preventing the occurrence of depressive symptoms in college students.