Prevalence of depression and its treatment in an elderly population: the Cache County study

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Archives of General Psychiatry





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Background: Previous estimates of the prevalence of geriatric depression have varied. There are few large population-based studies; most of these focused on individuals younger than 80 years. No US studies have been published since the advent of the newer antidepressant agents.

Methods: In 1995 through 1996, as part of a large population study, we examined the current and lifetime prevalence of depressive disorders in 4,559 nondemented individuals aged 65 to 100 years. This sample represented 90% of the elderly population of Cache County, Utah. Using a modified version of the diagnostic Interview Schedule, we ascertained past and present DSM-IV major depression, dysthymia, and subclinical depressive disorders. Medication use was determined through a structured interview and a "medicine chest inventory."

Results: Point prevalence of major depression was estimated at 4.4% in women and 2.7% in men (P=.003). Other depressive syndromes were surprisingly uncommon (combined point prevalence, 1.6%). Among subjects with current major depression, 35.7% were taking an antidepressant (mostly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and 27.4% sedative/hypnotic. The current prevalence of major depression did not change appreciably with age. Estimated lifetime prevalence of major depression was 20.4% in women and 9.6% in men (P

Conclusions: These estimates for prevalence of major depression are higher than those reported previously in North American studies. Treatment with antidepressants was more common than reported previously, but was still lacking in most individuals with major depression. The prevalence of subsyndromal depressive symptoms was low, possibly because of unusual characteristics of the population.

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