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Treating Depression Keeps Elderly Strong

Banishing blues improves physical functioning, too, study finds

FRIDAY, March 25, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Treating depression in older adults not only improves their emotional health, it also slows their physical decline, allowing them to remain independent longer, new research shows.

Reporting in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers compared one-year outcomes in two groups of older adults with depression.

One group received standard care for depression from their primary-care doctor, while those in the second group received depression treatment from both their doctor and a depression specialist.

When their depression improved, patients in both groups were more likely to show improvement in physical functioning than patients whose depression was not successfully treated, the study found. Patients who received the collaborative care were more likely to experience improvement in their depression, the researchers noted.

"This study is important for two reasons. First, it shows that even older adults with failing physical health can be successfully treated for depression. Second, it shows that treating the depression also helps slow the physical decline," principal author Dr. Christopher Callahan, director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, said in a prepared statement.

"Patients with late-life depression often experience a downward spiral of worsening depression and function. Effective treatment of late-life depression by a collaborative stepped-care program in primary care may interrupt this downward spiral," the study authors wrote.

More information

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry has more about depression and older adults.

SOURCE: Indiana University, news release, March 14, 2005
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