- Fewer than a third of U.S. adults (28.7%) who screened positive for depression actually received treatment, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine analysis released Monday.
- However, most adults who received depression treatment had not screened positive.
- Efforts to improve the alignment of depression care and patients' clinical needs should be strengthened, the study authors concluded.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the country and some believe it is under-treated. The analysis revealed that there is a gap in depression treatment and the treatment is more often than not unnecessary. If these issues were to be addressed, it could lead to healthier patient populations.
The researchers analyzed 2012 and 2013 data on 46,417 adults from Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys. About 8.1% of the surveyed adults reported they had been receiving depression treatment but just 29.9% of them had screened positive. Inversely, among the 8.4% that screened positive, only 28.7% received treatment.
"I was actually somewhat surprised," study author Dr. Mark Olfson, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN. "There has been a substantial increase in prescribing antidepressants over the last several years, and so I think it is tempting to assume that under-treatment of depression is no longer a big deal."
According to Olfson, there are several reasons why patients may not want to be treated for depression such as the negative stigma associated with it or other medical conditions that may cause patient to overlook symptoms.
Findings show the most common treatment the surveyed adults were given was antidepressants (87%), followed by psychotherapy (23.2%), anxiolytics (13.5%), antipsychotics (7.0%), and mood stabilizers (5.1%). Olfson recommends integrating screening tools and mental health services into primary care to address the disparities in access to depression treatment as well as awareness of the condition, Kaiser Health News reported.