April 01, 2014
1 min read

Primary care interventions linked to lower depression rates in seniors

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Older adults who received problem-solving therapy for primary care or dietary interventions showed fewer depressive symptoms, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services.

The study examined the effects of early intervention in both black and white seniors and showed that both therapeutic approaches were equally effective in preventing depression in both groups.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center endowed professor of geriatric psychiatry, Charles F. Reynolds III, MD, and colleagues collected data from 247 participants. Researchers recruited participants with the intent to measure preventive effects in black patients, who endorse significantly greater depressive symptoms later in life than white patients, according to the study.

Charles F. Reynolds III

Charles F. Reynolds III

“Because racial minorities are at greater risk for depression, in part due to socioeconomic disadvantages, lower educational attainment and a greater likelihood of other medical problems, we established a foundation of trust working through churches and community-based organizations in black communities," Sandra Quinn, PhD, said in a press release.

Data from 90 black, 154 white and 3 Asian participants who reported subsyndromal depressive symptoms were collected in a randomized trial that measured the therapeutic effects of dietary intervention vs. problem-solving therapy for primary care (PST-PC). Depressive symptoms were tracked using the Beck Depression Inventory over 2 years, and patients averaged 5.5 to 6.0 hours of direct intervention therapy time during the study period.

Overall, study findings showed that incidence of major depressive episodes in both black participants (n=8, 9%) and white participants (n=13, 8%) was low when compared with previously published estimated rates of people undergoing usual care (20% to 25%). Patients in both the dietary intervention group and the PST-PC group showed a four-point mean decrease in depressive symptoms, sustained over 2 years.

Despite what researchers identified as a “greater burden of depressive risk factors among blacks,” the study demonstrated that no significant differences were found in depression symptoms between white and black participants over the 2-year study period.

Researchers also noted that future study could include a control group who would receive concurrent usual care, which could better demonstrate the potential for dietary interventions and PST-PC interventions to reduce depression in older adults.

Disclosure: The study was funded by the NIH and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.