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Inexpensive Mail-Out Can Help Fight Depression

People who received specially designed brochure experienced fewer symptoms, study found

THURSDAY, June 29, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Even a brief, low-cost mail-based intervention can help ease symptoms of mild depression, a new study finds.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, included 177 college students with depression. A week after being assessed, half the students received the intervention, which included a personalized "feedback letter" outlining each student's depression situation. The brochure explained different strategies for coping with depression, including exercise, meditation, social support, medication, and treatment resources.

After one month, students who received the intervention reported a 20 percent reduction in the severity of their depression symptoms, compared with eight percent of the students who did not receive the intervention.

The study also found that feelings of hopelessness declined 31 percent among students who received the intervention, compared with seven percent among those who did not receive the intervention.

This kind of brief interventions has been used effectively as a treatment for alcohol abuse for a number of years, the study authors noted. They estimated that it cost less than $2 per person to deliver the brief intervention to the students in this study. Other possible approaches include weekly email "boosters" and an Internet version of the treatment.

The finding appear in the current issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

More information

The American College of Physicians has more about depression.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, June 19, 2006
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