Meditation and yoga – research looks to reduce depression for women transitioning to menopause

By Costa Maragos Posted: May 4, 2018 6:00 a.m.

(l-r) Dr. Jennifer Gordon, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department; Tracy Morgan, project patient-investigator; Dr. Shadi Beshai, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and Joanne Alexiuk, project patient-investigator.
(l-r) Dr. Jennifer Gordon, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department; Tracy Morgan, project patient-investigator; Dr. Shadi Beshai, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department and Joanne Alexiuk, project patient-investigator. Photo by Rae Graham - U of R Photography

Could meditation and mindful yoga help prevent depression for women transitioning to menopause?

A U of R research team aims to find out.

Dr. Jennifer Gordon, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department, and her team are collaborating on a project with the Regina Community Clinic.

Team members will investigate the efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction in the prevention of perimenopausal depression.

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a well-established eight-week group intervention combining meditation and mindful yoga that has been shown to greatly increase resilience to stress in many populations,” says Gordon. “Yet its mental health benefits have yet to be tested in the menopause transition. We’re hoping this treatment will prove to be a cost-effective intervention that can easily be implemented in a community setting.”

Working with Dr. Robin McMaster, Medical Director of the Regina Community Clinic, the study will enroll 100 healthy, non-depressed women, ages 42-55 who are in the early menopause transition. Half of the participants will take part in an eight-week intervention while the other half will be put on a wait list to take part in the treatment at the end of the study.

“With this treatment, we’re actually hoping to prevent the development of depression before it even starts,” says Gordon. “The menopause transition is known to be a time of increased risk for depression, in part because of the hormonal environment that women are exposed to, so we are hoping that by offering this early in the menopause transition, we can increase women’s resilience, making them less likely to develop significant depressive symptoms.”

This project was made possible thanks to funding from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation in partnership with the Saskatchewan Center for Patient-Oriented Research.  

The U of R team is one of eight research project proposals approved to receive Sprout grants for patient-oriented health research. The partnership investment, totaling over $1.2 million, strives to have a "tangible impact on patient outcomes."

Seven teams from the University of Saskatchewan were also approved for funding. The U of R team received nearly $160,000 for its project.

“The hope is that our approach will prove to be a cost-effective intervention that can easily be implemented in a community setting,” says Gordon. “A successful outcome will give us a strong case to convince the provincial government to publically fund such a program.”

Patient recruitment is planned for May 14, 2018 with the first mindfulness session taking place in August, 2018.

Weekly classes will be 2.5 hours long with an instructor leading the way with 10-15 participants at a time. Depressive symptoms will be monitored every two weeks for six months.

For more information on how you can take part in this study, please contact Tianna at wmh.research@uregina.ca.

Gordon is the principal project investigator. The research team includes Dr. Shadi Beshai, Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department, Dr. Robin McMaster, Director of the Regina Community Clinic, Tracy Morgan, Joanne Alexiuk, Amanda Scollan and Tavis Campbell.