Study sees rise in depression rates, decline in use of therapy

LOS ANGELES — New Yorkers complaining to — and about — their analysts used to be primary characters in the many films of Woody Allen. But not so much lately.

That change reflects the reality of Americans dealing with depression, according to a study out this week in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Treatment for depression rose substantially during the 1990s. The disability affected 0.73 percent of the U.S. population in 1987, and 71 percent of those patients relied on psychotherapists for treatment. A decade later, the proportion of American adults being treated for depression more than tripled to 2.33 percent, but only 60 percent of them were seeing psychotherapists.

The big drop in psychotherapy was probably due to the introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, a class of popular antidepressants including Zoloft and Prozac.

The new study found that those trends continued between 1998 and 2007 — the proportion of the population being treated for depression grew from 2.37 percent to 2.88 percent during that decade. That may not sound like a big jump, but it works out to an extra 2.2 million people.

However, the proportion of those patients who got psychotherapy fell from 54 percent to 43 percent. Several specific groups were responsible for this decrease — people in the 35-49 age group, Hispanics, people who didn't go to college, the unemployed and people who get their health insurance through Medicaid, the study reported.

Once again, pills appeared to take up the slack. The percentage of people on antidepressants ticked up from 64 percent in 1998 to 75 percent in 2007.

Study sees rise in depression rates, decline in use of therapy 12/10/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:40pm]

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