Confirming what many long term climbers have attested to, researcher Eva-Maria Stelzer of the University of Arizona and Katharina Luttenberger of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg have led a study suggesting bouldering could be an effective treatment in the battle against depression.
Bouldering has a number of important characteristics that make it especially beneficial for the treatment of depression, namely that it helps boost self-efficacy and social interactions — both of which hold innate benefits for dealing with depression.
“You have to be mindful and focused on the moment. It does not leave much room to let your mind wonder on things that may be going on in your life — you have to focus on not falling,” Stelzer said.
“Bouldering not only has strong mental components, but it is accessible at different levels so that people of all levels of physical health are able to participate,” she said, adding that because many people who are depressed deal with isolation, bouldering as a treatment could bolster physical activity and be used as a social tool allowing people to interact with one another.
In light of the findings, the team believes that bouldering may be used in conjunction with traditional care platforms available for clinical depression. Work has already begun on the development of a manual that could be adopted for an eight-week program integrating bouldering and psychotherapeutic interventions for groups.
“I hope this study and future studies are able to impact a life,” Stelzer said. “Depression is a severe illness. It is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and worldwide. Even though a variety of treatment options exist, less than one-third of people receive treatment for their symptoms.”
Depression in Europe: facts and figures
- Each year, 25% of the population suffer from depression or anxiety.
- Neuropsychiatric disorders account for 19.5% of the burden of disease in the European Region, and 26% in European Union (EU) countries.
- These disorders account for up to 40% of years lived with disability, with depression as the main cause.
- Up to 50% of chronic sick leaves are due to depression/anxiety.
- About 50% of major depressions are untreated.
- The cost of mood disorders and anxiety in the EU is about €170 billion per year.
(Facts from the World Health Organization http://www.euro.who.int/)