A review of a long-term study suggests depression treatment has lasting benefits.

Unfortunately, experts believe only one-half of individuals who would benefit from depression treatment receive care.

Canadian researcher Ian Colman, an epidemiologist in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, reviewed a long-running national population health study.

He discovered depressed adults who use antidepressants are three times less likely to be depressed eight years later, compared to depressed adults who don’t use antidepressants.

Research on use of antidepressant treatments for major depression remains limited. Studies have focused on short-term outcomes and there is limited knowledge about long-term results.

However, it’s important to note that it’s unlikely that the effects are just the result of ongoing treatment. Colman said, “It’s more likely that results from the study speak to the importance of getting evidence-based treatment, drugs or other therapies, in the first place and treatments that ensure that all of your symptoms are resolved.”

Colman also stresses that, while proper treatment is vital, he also points out the importance of treatment that continues until an individual’s symptoms have completely ceased.

“It’s common that depressed individuals will have a partial remission of symptoms where they feel better but some symptoms remain; those people have poor long-term outcomes,” he said.

“It’s important to have successful treatment that deals with all of your symptoms.”

Colman hopes the new study is insightful for the more than 50 per cent of people who are depressed are not receiving treatment. He hopes improved symptom recognition along with acceptance of the illness and the benefits of intervention will lead more people to receive appropriate care.

Successful treatment of depression often relies on a combination of psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy in particular focus on problem-solving and skills building and help the patient deal with stressful situations.

“Evidence suggests that cognitive behavioral therapies are as effective as anti-depressants, and the two treatments together is even more effective,” he said.

Colman’s study is found in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Source: University of Alberta