CHICAGO -- Treatment rates for major depression have improved significantly over the last two decades, but more than half of patients nationwide are getting inadequate therapy, a new study suggests.
The findings suggest that while the stigma of mental illness may be easing, many doctors may not be aware of treatment advancements, and many patients may be seeking unproven therapies, said Harvard Medical School researcher Ronald Kessler, the study's lead author.
"That's the most disturbing thing of all," Kessler said. "After all these years of trying to get them in ... we've screwed up."
The nationally representative study of 9,090 people aged 18 and up found that about 57 percent of participants with recent major depression had received treatment. That rate is nearly 40 percent higher than rates reported in the early 1980s, the researchers said.
Treatment was considered adequate or adhering to accepted guidelines in only 21 percent of patients with recent depression.
The findings, published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association, are based on face-to-face psychiatric evaluations conducted from February 2001 to December 2002.
Overall, 6.6 percent of patients had major depression sometime within the previous year, which equals up to about 14 million U.S. adults.
The overall prevalence is slightly higher than rates reported a decade ago but whether it represents a true increase or just better recognition of depression is uncertain, Kessler said.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that depression afflicts 9.5 percent of adults in any given year, or about 19 million.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.