Could a certain color light affect your mood?
A red light means stop, a green one means go, a yellow light means caution, but what about a blue light? New research suggests this specific color light could actually have important implications for stroke patients when it comes to depression.
A team of Danish researchers hypothesized that tweaking a post rehab facility’s lights could help alleviate stroke patients’ depression. Their study examined 84 patients in an acute stroke unit, some of whom stayed in a unit with blue-light lighting systems while others were in an area with standard lighting. They found that those in the “blue-light” unit reported being significantly less depressed at the time of their discharge.
“Sunlight is humans’ largest source of blue-spectrum light,” noted the team led by Dr. Anders West, a stroke specialist at the University of Copenhagen. “So, blue light is key to the circadian (day-night) ‘body clock’ that helps guide bodily processes,” the study authors explained.
According to the American Heart Association, each year about 795,000 people in the U.S. experience a stroke. Between one-third and two-thirds of stroke survivors are affected by depression. Light therapy is one treatment option for depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
So is blue light the answer for post-stroke care?
Some experts are skeptical of the study’s definition of depression.
“What you see in patients immediately following a stroke could be classified as an adjustment disorder rather than full-blown depression,” says Dr. Trisha Summerlin, medical director of physical and medical rehabilitation at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Typically, ‘depression’ as a syndrome is diagnosed after about six months of persistent mood disorder.”
And while development of a serious illness is a common stressor that can trigger an adjustment disorder, psychotherapy is a common treatment. “Traditionally, treatment is supportive, non-pharmacologic therapy,” suggests Dr. Summerlin.
Still with further study, perhaps West’s use of light therapy could add another layer of non-medicinal treatment for stroke patients. And one day, perhaps blue light will take on a new meaning.
About the Author
Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.