Depression Treatment Shows Ability to Extend Life
> 6/21/2007 1:27:03 PM

Depression can lower not only the quality of life, but the quantity of it as well. This has been hinted at before by studies on the life-saving effect of antidepressants on heart-attack recovery. In the SAD-HART study, patients who took antidepressants after hospitalization were slightly more likely to be alive 24 weeks afterwards. The difference, while encouraging, was not large enough to be conclusive.

A new study by Dr. Joseph Gallo found stronger evidence of depressionís link to life-span. Previous studies may not have found what they were looking for because they focused only on patients hospitalized for specific ailments like heart problems. Dr. Gallo tested a wide range of patients, and found that depression only significantly affected cancer deaths. He followed 396 subjects over 60 years old and found that those with major depression who received treatment for depression were 45% less likely to die than those who received only primary care.

This result is strong support for the regular inclusion of depression treatment in elderly care. More research must be done to find the reason why depression hastens death. There may be a specific biological mechanism, or a behavioral difference. Perhaps depressed people do not monitor themselves or seek medical help early enough. Whatever the reason, depression treatment saves lives. The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry cautioned, at their annual meeting, that they soon may not be able to handle the mental health needs of the expanding elderly population. Renewed attention during training and residency on issues in geriatric psychiatry should provide new practioners with the skills they need to address the specific problems of older clients.

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