Depression Stalking Younger Women

It's the second-leading cause of hospitalization

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HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Serious depression is on the rise -- but it's mostly younger women who are being affected.

That's one of several findings in a new report by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that looked at the care of women admitted to hospitals in the year 2000.

Among the study's conclusions: Depression was the second-leading cause of hospitalization for women aged 18 to 44, with some 205,000 admissions in 2000. The number one reason for hospitalization for women in this age group was obstetrical care and childbirth.

The researchers also found that depression was the seventh most frequent cause of hospitalization for women of all ages.

Interestingly, other statistics recently released by AHRQ show that depression does not even make the top 10 list of health concerns for men.

"The findings are simply an indication of where we need to look, where we need to concentrate our research to not only understand why women appear to be at such high risk [of depression], but in learning more about how we can reduce those risks," says study author Dr. Claudia Steiner.

Steiner is senior research physician with the AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The new report cites the number of women hospitalized in the year 2000, and includes the reason for admission, discharges and any surgeries or procedures performed.

Overall, the top three reasons women of all ages were hospitalized in 2000 were physical trauma related to childbirth (785,000); pneumonia, (581,000); and congestive heart failure, (581,000).

In all age groups, a total of 361,000 women were hospitalized for depression.

For women aged 18 to 44, reasons for hospitalization other than depression and childbirth included fibroid tumors (139,000); gall bladder disease (117,000); back problems (85,000); and asthma (70,000).

The new report on women contrasts sharply with other AHRQ reports on male hospitalization statistics for the year 2000. The top three reasons for hospitalization for men were coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.

The AHRQ reports state that of the 646,416 hospital admissions for depression in the year 2000, 61.9 percent were women, and 39.1 percent were men, up from 38 percent in 1997.

The disparity between gender-based mental health statistics seems enormous. But if you look behind the numbers, men and women may be more alike than the research indicates, says reproductive psychiatrist Dr. Shari Lusskin.

"Generally speaking, women seek treatment for depression and men do not. But that doesn't mean men don't suffer with depression, because they do," says Lusskin, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Medical Center.

The proof, she says, is in the bottle -- alcohol and medicine, that is.

"In men, you see far more treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. But the underlying reason for these problems is still usually depression, even though the hospital admission forms may not have this on record," Lusskin says.

Previously released AHRQ statistics support her thinking. The agency found that while some 300,000 men were hospitalized for drug and alcohol abuse in 2000, just 138,000 women needed treatment for a similar problem.

Lusskin says it's important to pay attention to what the new report is saying about women and depression -- and use it to learn more about where to concentrate research and treatment efforts.

"Hopefully, researchers will use many of the statistical findings in this paper to recognize populations that are under-served, and identify women that need more medical attention, particularly new mothers, whose postpartum depression problems too often go unrecognized and untreated for a very long time," Lusskin says.

The new report, titled "Care of U.S. Women In Hospitals, 2000," is the third in a series published by AHRQ based on year 2000 health data collected on 7 million patients from 1,000 hospitals nationwide.

More information

You can find the new AHRQ report by clicking here. For more information on the newest treatments for depression, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCES: Claudia Steiner, M.D., M.P.H., senior research physician, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Rockville, Md.; Shari Lusskin, M.D., clinical assistant professor, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, New York University School of Medicine, New York City; January 2003 "Care of Women in U.S. Hospitals, 2000," U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

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