Depression Study: 8 Years Later, Guess Who’s Smiling Now?

There are encouraging findings hidden among some depressing facts. First the bad news. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 7 percent of adults in the U.S. have depression that lasts at least a year. More than 30 percent of these, or 2 percent of the population, have severe depression. The good news is included in a recent paper claiming that antidepressants have long term benefits that will help you years down the line.

Previous studies looked at results covering weeks or months and found benefits. The new study is one of the first to look at the long term benefits of antidepressant medication.

Most people diagnosed with depression take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The most popular medications in this class are fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) and escitalopram (Lexapro). Like all drugs, they have side effects, but these are outweighed by the benefits once the right drug is found, frequently a trial-and-error process that can take time.

The study showed that only 29 percent of people with severe depression took an antidepressant in the beginning. But these people felt better and functioned better than those who didn’t take any medication early on. Furthermore, they were less likely to be taking antidepressants eight years later.

Future studies including more subjects are needed to confirm these findings. It will also be important to identify and take into consideration other factors that could affect outcome in people with depression, including the presence of other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorder.

Since nearly half of patients taking antidepressants stop taking them after a few months, millions of the estimated 14.8 million people in the U.S. with depression may be setting themselves up for worse times in coming years.

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of antidepressants for treating severe depression has been proven repeatedly. Eighty percent of the time depression responds to treatment. Taking advantage of these facts will pay off in the present and in the future.

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