Reducing Depression in Elderly Patients

Depression in older primary care patients may benefit from doctor education

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Should doctors be trained in ways to help prevent depression and self-harm in at-risk patients? A new trial tried just that and discovered benefits from those preventative efforts.

A recent trial provided a group of general practitioners with educational materials to help them prevent the onset of and treat elderly patients with depression.

Results were most promising in groups where depression had not yet developed.

"Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing signs of depression."

Osvaldo P. Almeida, MS, PhD, from the WA Centre for Health & Aging at the University of Western Australia, led a team to perform a trial to reduce depression in elderly patients.

The trial ran from 2005 to 2008 with 373 general practitioners from Australia and 21,762 of their patients aged 60 and older.

For the trial, Dr. Almeida’s team furnished the test group of general practitioners with printed educational materials and personalized feedback to help treat each patient along with six monthly newsletters. Those in the control group were only given the newsletters.

The educational materials included information about screening, diagnosing and managing depression and suicidal behavior in elderly patients.

Each patient was given a questionnaire to assess his or her emotional state at the start of the trial, 12 months and 24 months.

The trial results showed a 10 percent reduction in the odds of depression and self-harm behavior in the education group compared to the control group.

Authors report that the education materials provided to physicians were most affective before the onset of depression in patients. They were especially helpful in preventing self-harm behavior.

Further studies are necessary to try and duplicate the findings that educating physicians to prevent depression and self-harm in older patients was beneficial. 

This study was published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine. The funding for this study was provided by grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and beyondblue Australia. No conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
July 24, 2012
Last Updated:
February 21, 2013