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Innovative Therapy Helps Seniors Fight Depression

Joint effort from a number of specialists brings lasting results, study finds

FRIDAY, Jan. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A "team approach" to treat depression in elderly people produces effective, lasting results, a new U.S. study finds.

The two-year study of more than 1,800 depressed people, aged 60 and older, found that patients in the IMPACT (Improving Mood Promoting Access to Collaborative Care Treatment) program suffered less depression, had better physical functioning, better overall health, and better quality of life than patients who received standard care.

IMPACT is specifically designed to treat the depressed elderly. The team included primary care and mental health specialists who worked together using a computer program to track each patient's specific needs and appropriate treatment, including problem-solving talk therapy and antidepressants.

"Depressed older adults rarely get effective treatment. This study shows we can engage these patients in treatment in their usual primary care setting, and help them lead happy, productive lives," study lead author Enid Hunkeler, an investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., said in a prepared statement.

The findings are published in the current British Medical Journal.

The IMPACT program is currently being distributed in the United States and Canada.

Depression affects an estimated seven million of the 35 million Americans 65 and older, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Two million of those seven million suffer severe depression, which greatly increases their risk of suicide.

More information

For more on depression, head to the National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, Jan. 20, 2006
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