14 October 2007

What Works To Treat Depression?

A total of 202 adults (153 women; 49 men) diagnosed with major depression were assigned randomly to one of four conditions: supervised exercise in a group setting; home-based exercise; antidepressant medication (sertraline, 50–200 mg daily); or placebo pill for 16 weeks. Patients underwent the structured clinical interview for depression and completed the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D).

Results: After 4 months of treatment, 41% of the participants achieved remission, defined as no longer meeting the criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD) and a HAM-D score of <8. Patients receiving active treatments tended to have higher remission rates than the placebo controls: supervised exercise = 45%; home-based exercise = 40%; medication = 47%; placebo = 31% (p = .057). All treatment groups had lower HAM-D scores after treatment; scores for the active treatment groups were not significantly different from the placebo group (p = .23).

From here, hat tip to Science News.

Also notable on the depression front is a new diagnostic tool (may be subscription only) for depression tested on subjects half-healthy, and half with clinical depression, acceleromters:

These devices measure how often someone changes his rate of movement by recording each time his acceleration exceeds a certain threshold.

The basic results confirmed a known feature of depressed people. The normal daily rhythm that would lead to a high, steady number of counts during daylight hours and low counts during the night was replaced by occasional bursts of activity. The surprise came when the team started plotting their results out on graphs.

The curves produced by plotting the lengths of low-activity periods against their frequency were strikingly different in healthy and depressed people. This reflects not inactivity by the depressed (though they were, indeed, less active) but a difference in the way that the healthy and the depressed spread their resting periods over the day. Depressed people experience longer resting periods more frequently and shorter ones less frequently than healthy people do.

This would be helpful because many depression diagnosis tools are highly subjective.

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