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Depression typically runs a relapsing and recurrent course.1 Without ongoing treatment people with recurrent depression have a very high risk of repeated depressive relapses throughout their life, even after successful acute treatment. Major inroads into the substantial health burden attributable to depression could be offset through interventions that prevent depressive relapse among people at high risk of recurrent episodes.2 If the factors that make people vulnerable to depressive relapse can be attenuated, the relapsing course of depression could potentially be broken. Currently, most depression is treated in primary care, and maintenance antidepressants are the mainstay approach to preventing relapse.3 The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that to stay well, people with a history of recurrent depression should continue taking antidepressants for at least two years. However, many patients experience side effects, and some express a preference for psychosocial interventions, which provide long term protection against relapse.4 Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT)5 was developed as a psychosocial intervention for teaching people with a history of depression the skills to stay well in the long term (see box for a description of MBCT).
Importance Relapse prevention in recurrent depression is a significant public health problem, and antidepressants are the current first-line treatment approach. Identifying an equally efficacious nonpharmacological intervention would be an important development.Objective To conduct a meta-analysis on individual patient data to examine the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) compared with usual care and other active treatments, including antidepressants, in treating those with recurrent depression. Data Sources English-language studies published or accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals identified from EMBASE, PubMed/Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register from the first available year to November 22, 2014. Searches were conducted from November 2010 to November 2014. Study Selection Randomized trials of manualized MBCT for relapse prevention in recurrent depression in full or partial remission that compared MBCT with at least 1 non-MBCT treatment, including usual care. Data Extraction and Synthesis This was an update to a previous meta-analysis. We screened 2555 new records after removing duplicates. Abstracts were screened for full-text extraction (S.S.) and checked by another researcher (T.D.). There were no disagreements. Of the original 2555 studies, 766 were evaluated against full study inclusion criteria, and we acquired full text for 8. Of these, 4 studies were excluded, and the remaining 4 were combined with the 6 studies identified from the previous meta-analysis, yielding 10 studies for qualitative synthesis. Full patient data were not available for 1 of these studies, resulting in 9 studies with individual patient data, which were included in the quantitative synthesis. Results Of the 1258 patients included, the mean (SD) age was 47.1 (11.9) years, and 944 (75.0%) were female. A 2-stage random effects approach showed that patients receiving MBCT had a reduced risk of depressive relapse within a 60-week follow-up period compared with those who did not receive MBCT (hazard ratio, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.58-0.82). Furthermore, comparisons with active treatments suggest a reduced risk of depressive relapse within a 60-week follow-up period (hazard ratio, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.64-0.97). Using a 1-stage approach, sociodemographic (ie, age, sex, education, and relationship status) and psychiatric (ie, age at onset and number of previous episodes of depression) variables showed no statistically significant interaction with MBCT treatment. However, there was some evidence to suggest that a greater severity of depressive symptoms prior to treatment was associated with a larger effect of MBCT compared with other treatments. Conclusions and Relevance Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy appears efficacious as a treatment for relapse prevention for those with recurrent depression, particularly those with more pronounced residual symptoms. Recommendations are made concerning how future trials can address remaining uncertainties and improve the rigor of the field.