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Qi Gong Practices’ Effects on Depression


Depression is a mental that makes people sad and apathetic, and gets in the way of enjoying their lives. In the US, over 9.5% of all adults suffer from depression of some kind (Friedrich, 2017). Women are twice as more likely to suffer from it than men. There are several ways to treat depression that involve drugs as well as less invasive methods. The former include antidepressants, inhibitors, and hormonal therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, music, dancing, and physical exercises, among others, are some of the newer approaches to treating depression. Qi Gong is a set of physical and spiritual practices aimed at the balance of mind, body, and soul. This article will demonstrate whether it is good or not at treating depression.

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What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is a system of physical and mental exercises that is very popular in China. It involves slow, fluid motions, breathing exercises, and meditative practices to clear the mind. Corporations in China often include Qi Gong for their employees to make sure they stay healthy, both mind and body (Choi et al., 2013). The practices have roots in traditional Chinese medicine. Ancient Chinese doctors believed illness came from weakness of the soul. The focus on meditation, physical wellness, and proper relaxation is similar to what we use in western medicine (Choi et al., 2013). As such, there might be potential of using Qi Gong to treat mild cases of depression, and as supportive-restorative therapy against severe cases of the disease.

Qi Gong Bowls

Qi Gong singing bowls are often used in Qi Gong rituals and spiritual practices. They are often used in Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian temples. The sounds these bowls make help soothe the mind and body (Wang et al., 2013). To do that, a brush or a finger is passed along the rim of the bowl. Bowls themselves are often filled with water, oil, and other liquids, to regulate the pitch. These items can be used in combination with Qi Gong practices or separately. Listening to the singing bowls may invoke autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), which some people enjoy (Wang et al., 2013).

  • Evidence Review (1):
    • Qi Gong practices have been researched to figure out if they could be used to treat depression. Choi et al. (2013) looked at 8 studies dedicated to the subject. According to Choi et al. (2013), one study found that Qi Gong was like rehabilitative therapy to patients whose depression was not as bad. In other words, it worked for people who could be treated without using drugs. Other studies, however, did not find any significant benefits when treating depression. It is hard to be certain if Qi Gong was effective or not against depression. They recommended to conduct more and better studies to make sure.
  • Evidence Review (2):
    • Wang et al. (2013) performed a similar study, only involving 15 papers instead of 8. They agree with Choi et al. (2013) that the available studies are not very good. They’re limited in scope and methodology, meaning that it’s hard to apply their conclusions to different patients and situations. However, they found that Qi Gong may help people with a history of depression and chronic illnesses. Some of these ailments include type 2 diabetes, which is a frequent diagnosis in the US. The study found that people felt less depressed thanks to Qi Gong practices. The researchers did not like the quality of evidence though. They also thought that culture had an influence on how effective Qi Gong was. Wang et al. (2013) supports doing additional studies.
  • Evidence Review (3):
    • The article by Yin and Dishman (2014) is probably the biggest meta-analysis available. They looked at 35 studies to determine whether Qi Gong was good or not for depression. 2765 people participated in those studies, all of whom were diagnosed with mild-to-moderate depression. Tai Chi and Qi Gong were used in combination to treat them from symptoms. The report finds that Qi Gong helped people with mild depression more. In the best-case scenarios, the effects were weak to moderate. The more severe the case – the less effective Qi Gong practices were. Like previous studies, Yin and Dishman (2014) pointed out the poor quality of the studies. They asked for large-scale and more rigorous research to be made.


While it appears that Qi Gong may be good for treating patients with depression, though it is hard to tell just how effective such therapy may be. The sources available cite the poor quality of data. Questions towards how data was obtain makes it hard to figure out whether Qi Gong would be appropriate to some patients or not. Most researchers agree that Qi Gong helps at least a little bit, especially when it comes to patients with mild depression and anxiety. In addition, Qi Gong may be more fit for Asian patients and those of Chinese descent. Since Qi Gong is in their culture, it would be easier for them to accept and practice it. China already does it in-masse, with their office employees.


Qi Gong combines physical fitness, mental focus, and spiritual health, which can be useful in treating depression. Qi Gong is similar to practices our Western medicine uses, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, as the article showed, many studies we currently have are not very good. Bigger and better studies are needed before we are sure. One of the big limitations is that studies rarely concern western patients. Until more studies focus on Western audiences, it is hard to tell if Qi Gong will work better or worse in places like Europe or the US. Therefore, Qi Gong remains a prospective venue for future research.


Choi, S. M., Inamori, A., Rosenthal, D., & Yeung, A. (2013). Effects of qigong on depression: A systemic review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-8. Web.

Friedrich, M. J. (2017). Depression is the leading cause of disability around the world. Jama, 317(15), 1517-1517. Web.

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Yin, J., & Dishman, R. K. (2014). The effect of Tai Chi and Qigong practice on depression and anxiety symptoms: a systematic review and meta- regression analysis of randomized controlled trials. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 7(3), 135-146. Web.

Wang, F., Man, J. K., Lee, E. K. O., Wu, T., Benson, H., Fricchione, G. L., & Yeung, A. (2013). The effects of qigong on anxiety, depression, and psychological well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-6. Web.

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