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Depression Therapy Seen Lagging as More Seek Help

June 18, 2003|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Treatment rates for major depression have improved significantly over the last two decades, but more than half of patients nationwide are getting inadequate therapy, a new study released Tuesday suggests.

The findings suggest that although the stigma of mental illness may be easing, many doctors may not be aware of treatment advancements, and that many patients may be seeking unproven therapies, said Harvard Medical School researcher Ronald Kessler, the study's lead author.

"That's the most disturbing thing of all," Kessler said. "After all these years of trying to get them in ... we've screwed up."

The nationally representative study of 9,090 people aged 18 and up found that about 57% of participants with recent major depression had received treatment. That rate is nearly 40% higher than rates reported in the early 1980s, the researchers said.

Treatment was considered adequate or adhering to accepted guidelines in only 21% of patients with recent depression.

The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., are based on face-to-face psychiatric evaluations conducted from February 2001 to December 2002.

About 14 million U.S. adults had major depression sometime within the previous year.

The overall prevalence is slightly higher than rates reported a decade ago but whether it represents a true increase or just better recognition of depression is uncertain, Kessler said.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that depression afflicts about 19 million adults in a given year, but those figures are based on old data that were less strict than the current survey's criteria, Kessler said. Depression was more common in women and adults aged 18-44 than in men and adults over 60. Rates were similar nationwide.

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