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February 2002
TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION
By Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

Increase in Treatment for Depression

A study from 1987 to 1997 found that the number of Americans treated for depression increased by a surprising amount: from 1.7 million to 6.3 million. This increase was due to three factors, according to the researchers. First, new drugs, such as Prozac, have been aggressively marketed. These marketing efforts, along with the fact that this newer generation of medications often have fewer side effects, have made people more willing to seek treatment. Second, the rise of managed care has resulted in apush by insurance companies to treat depression more aggressively and more efficiently, which often entails the use of medication. Third, the stigma associated with depression has eased; perhaps in part due to the more public acknowledgments by people that they do experience depression, along with statements that treatment can help.

Psychiatrists best dispense medication, since primary care physicians are often overburdened and lack the incentive to provide the kind of long-term follow-up that depressed patients need. Evidence shows that combining medication with psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for depression. Some surveys indicate that 5% of the U.S. population could benefit from treatment for depression though only about half thatnumber actually receive care.

Reported in the L.A. Times on January 9, 2002, the study was released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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