Given the growing evidence that a range of lifestyle factors are involved in the etiology of depression, a ‘lifestyle medicine’ approach can be potentially safe and cost-effective to prevent or treat depression. To examine the effects and acceptability of a group-based, integrative lifestyle medicine intervention as a standalone treatment for managing depressive symptoms, a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted in a Chinese adult population in 2018. Participants (n = 31) with PHQ-9 score above the cut-off of ≥ 10, which was indicative of moderate to severe depression, were recruited from the general community in Hong Kong and randomly assigned to lifestyle medicine group (LM group) or care-as-usual group (CAU group) in a ratio of 1:1. Participants in the LM group received 2-hour group sessions once per week for six consecutive weeks, which covered diet, exercise, mindfulness, psychoeducation, and sleep management. Linear mixed-effects model analyses showed that the LM group had a significant reduction in PHQ-9 scores compared to the CAU group at immediate posttreatment and 12-week posttreatment follow-up (d = 0.69 and 0.73, respectively). Moreover, there were significantly greater improvements in anxiety, stress, and insomnia symptoms (measured by DASS-21 and ISI) at all time points in the LM group (d = 0.42–1.16). The results suggests that our 6-week group-based, integrative lifestyle intervention program is effective in lowering depressive, anxiety, stress, and insomnia symptoms in the Chinese population. Further studies in clinical populations with a larger sample size and longer follow-up are warranted.
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