What is it?
Generally dance involves movement of the body rhythmically to music. There are many different styles of dance. Some are done alone, some in a pair and others are done in a group.
How does it work?
Dance is a type of exercise and involves music listening. Please see these pages for more information on how they may be helpful for depression. Briefly, increased activity levels may lift mood through neurochemicals which are released when exercising. Music listening is thought to have an effect on emotions and may lift mood, though how this occurs is not understood. Dance can also involve social contact, which may be helpful for improving depression symptoms.
Is it effective?
There is a small amount of evidence to suggest that dance specifically can be helpful for depressive symptoms.
Four studies of reasonable quality have looked at Tango, Rumba, Ballroom and Turkish Folklore Dancing. Two studies showed that dancing had a positive effect on depression. These involved Tango and Rumba. The two other studies found that there was no difference in depression symptoms between people who had been given dance classes and others who had not.
Much more research is needed to understand the effectiveness of dance for depression.
Are there any disadvantages?
Some dance styles can be more strenuous than others. You should choose a style that is appropriate to your fitness levels. Some dance classes may be costly, but there are free alternatives.
Where do you get it?
Dance classes are offered through dance studios, fitness centres and community groups. If there are no dance classes available in your local area, you should be able to find tutorials online for a wide range of styles.
Dancing can be recommended as a positive lifestyle activity but more research is needed before it can be recommended as a treatment for depression.
- Akandere M, Demir B. The effect of dance over depression. Coll Antropol. 2011;35(3):651-6.
- Pinniger R, Brown RF, Thorsteinsson EB, McKinley P. Argentine tango dance compared to mindfulness meditation and a waiting-list control: a randomised trial for treating depression. Complement Ther Med. 2012;20(6):377-84.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016