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Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Jun;156(6):943-5.

Recurrence of first-episode geriatric depression after discontinuation of maintenance antidepressants.

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  • 1Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Toronto Hospital, Ont., Canada. aflint@torhosp.toronto.on.ca



Later age at onset of depression appears to be a risk factor for early recurrence. Therefore, the authors examined the 2-year outcomes of elderly patients with first-episode major depression following discontinuation of their maintenance antidepressant medication.


The study group consisted of 21 elderly patients who had recovered from a first lifetime episode of major depression. They had taken maintenance antidepressant medication for 2 years and had not had a relapse or recurrence during that time. The antidepressant was then withdrawn, and patients were followed for another 2 years or until recurrence, whichever occurred first.


The cumulative probability of suffering a recurrence of major depression was 61%. Eleven of the 12 patients who suffered a recurrence restarted the antidepressant, and 10 responded.


Elderly patients with first-episode major depression were at high risk of recurrence following discontinuation of maintenance antidepressant medication. However, the vast majority of patients who experienced a recurrence responded to reinstated treatment.

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