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J Affect Disord. 2012 Feb;136(3):789-96. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.09.038. Epub 2011 Oct 26.

Under-treatment of depression in older persons.

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UConn Center on Aging, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030-5215, United States.



Due to the cross-sectional design of most existing studies, longitudinal characterization of treatment for depression in older persons is largely unknown.


Seven hundred fifty-four men and women (aged 70+ years) underwent monthly assessments of mental health professional use and 18-month assessments of antidepressant medication use and depressive symptoms over 9 years. Scores of ≥20 on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale denoted depression. We evaluated trends in depression treatment over time in the entire sample and among the depressed participants. Using generalized linear models, we determined characteristics associated with receiving treatment for depression in these groups and among those with persistent depression.


During the 9-year follow-up period (1998-2007), 339 (45.0%) of the participants reported depression treatment. Over time, antidepressant use alone decreased (p trend<0.001) while treatment with both antidepressants and a mental health professional increased (p trend=0.002). Of the 286 (27.9%) depressed participants, between 43% and 69% did not receive depression treatment during any 18-month interval. 30.5% of the 121 participants with persistent depression did not receive treatment during the study period. Increasing number of years of education, decreasing cognitive status score, and being physically frail were associated with a higher likelihood of receiving treatment in all models.


Pre-baseline depression, pre-baseline treatment, and indication for treatment were unavailable.


Our findings indicate that the profile of treatment for depression in older persons has changed over time, that depressed older persons, including those with persistent depression, are under-treated, and that patient characteristics influence receipt of treatment.

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