Newswise — LOS ANGELES (Sept. 25, 2017) — A new Cedars-Sinai study reveals that older adults being treated for depression experience comparable improvements in quality of life and functioning as do younger adults treated for the same condition. 

In the study, published in the September issue of The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Cedars-Sinai investigators analyzed data from 2,280 patients involved in the National Institute of Mental Health’s largest depression study, called Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression, or STAR*D. 

“In many health conditions, younger patients experience better recovery than elderly patients. This study shows that patients with major depressive disorder can experience improvement in functioning and quality of life after treatment, no matter their age,” said Cedars-Sinai psychiatrist Waguih William IsHak, MD, senior author of the new study.  

In the study, co-authors Alexander J. Steiner, PsyD, Itai Danovitch, MD, MBA, and IsHak examined data related to patients’ quality of life. The authors examined the question of whether older patients (age 65 and above) fare as well as younger patients in quality of life and functioning after treatment for depression. Although older patients were shown to be more prone to having more severe depressive episodes that lasted longer, they responded to treatment as well as younger patients did.

Major depression is characterized by symptoms such as persistent sadness, lowered activity level and negative thoughts lasting longer than two weeks. More than 18 million Americans — about 7 percent of the adult population — experience a clinically significant episode of depression each year. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability and third-leading contributor to disease, affecting 350 million people worldwide. Depression among adults over the age of 65 runs as high as 42 percent among the elderly living in institutional housing.

Patients in the study were assessed before and after treatment for depression, using standard functional outcome assessment tools such as the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire — Short Form, and the Work and Social Adjustment Scale. The result: Following treatment, both older adults and adults under 65 experienced similar significant improvements in their quality of life — such as increased energy, improved outlook on life and feeling deeper connections with friends, family and their community.

“Many people who are depressed may not realize that there are treatments that can improve their lives, regardless of age,” IsHak said. “That is why Cedars-Sinai instituted a depression screening program by which every admitted patient gets screened for depression so that treatment can be initiated in the hospital.”

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