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Use of Bright Light Therapy Among Psychiatrists in Massachusetts: An E-Mail Survey

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2014;16(3):doi:10.4088/PCC.14m01637
10.4088/PCC.14m01637

Background: Evidence on the use of bright light therapy for conditions beyond seasonal affective disorder continues to accrue; however, data on the prevalent use of bright light therapy in the community or in hospitals remain limited, particularly in the United States.

Method: We conducted a 5-minute e-mail survey of practicing psychiatrists in Massachusetts using the membership roster through the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society to evaluate prevalent use of bright light therapy as well as to solicit attitudes toward the treatment. Three e-mails were sent out over a 2-week period, and responses were obtained from March 2–24, 2013. An iPad raffle was used to incentivize survey completion.

Results: Of the 1,366 delivered e-mails, 197 responses were obtained. Of respondents, 72% indicated that they used bright light therapy in their practice, and, among these, all but 1 used bright light therapy for seasonal affective disorder. Only 55% of responding psychiatrists who use bright light therapy consider it to treat nonseasonal depression, and 11% of respondents who recommend bright light therapy would consider its use in inpatient settings. Lack of insurance coverage for light-delivery devices was identified as the largest barrier to using bright light therapy, being cited by 55% of respondents. Survey results suggest that limitations in practitioner knowledge of bright light therapy and the absence of bright light therapy in treatment algorithms are the 2 leading modifiable factors to encourage broader implementation.

Limitations: The principal limitation of our survey was the low response rate. As such, we consider these data preliminary.

Conclusions: Response bias very likely led to an overestimation in prevalent use of bright light therapy; however, this bias notwithstanding, it appears that bright light therapy is used significantly less often for nonseasonal depression than for seasonal affective disorder. Further, its use in inpatient settings is significantly less than in outpatient settings. We expect that efforts to educate practitioners on the use and efficacy of bright light therapy for various psychiatric disorders combined with its inclusion on treatment algorithms may foster greater prevalent use.