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Study Identifies Effective Prevention Method for Depression in Elderly

Considering the impact that major depression can have on an individual, identifying risk factors and fighting to prevent their occurrence can be important. University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have pinpointed some of these factors in the elderly and their findings are summarized in a Science Daily release.

The research was led by Jeffrey M. Lyness, M.D., professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center, which could lead to preventative measures. Such an approach could hold promise for those by providing the greatest health benefit at the lowest cost.

“People with low-level depressive symptoms, who perceive that they have poor quality social support from other people, and with a past history of depression, were at particularly high risk to develop new major depression within the one-to-four year time period of the study,” Lyness said.

“This is good news, as we in the field are just learning how to prevent depression in particular high-risk groups. Future work will be able to test whether any of a variety of treatments — perhaps psychotherapy, perhaps medication, perhaps other things such as exercise — will help to prevent depression in persons suffering from the risks we identified in this study.”

The study focused on more than 600 people over the age of 65, all of which did not have an active diagnosis of major depression. Annual follow-up interviews were conducted in person for the next four years. In all, roughly 33 participants or 5.3 percent, developed an episode of major depression during the study period.

As a result of their analysis, researchers determined that the fully effective preventative treatment of five individuals presenting the indicators would prevent one new case of major depression.

“Given the compli¬¨cations of depression in an elderly population, a preventive approach for this at-risk population may be quite important to not only prevent psychological suffering but to also avoid the deleterious effects of depression on comorbid medical illness,” Taylor wrote.

There is still hope.

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