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Psychotherapy is not commonly used to treat older adults with depression

Only a minority of elderly individuals with depression receive psychotherapy, despite its widely acknowledged efficacy, concludes a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11825 and HS09566). Researchers analyzed claims and survey data from the 1992-1999 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey linked to the Area Resource File and found that psychotherapy was used to treat depression in the elderly in only 25 percent of 2,025 cases. Use of psychotherapy was correlated with younger patient age and higher educational attainment as well as availability of local psychotherapy providers. Only one-third of episodes in which psychotherapy was used involved consistent treatment.

Patients treated by psychiatrists alone were significantly less likely to receive consistent therapy than those who received at least some psychotherapy from other health care professionals. Availability of local providers (for example, living in a county with a mental health center) was positively correlated with consistent psychotherapy use.

See "Use of psychotherapy for depression in older adults," by Wenhui Wei, Ph.D., Usha Sambamoorthi, Ph.D., Mark Olfson, M.D., and others in the April 2005 American Journal of Psychiatry 162(4), pp. 711-717.

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