The Age Of Depression

Jonah Lehrer says that we live in it. And he's worried about depression treatment trends:

[T]he percentage of depressed subjects seeking psychotherapy for treatment declined dramatically between 1998 and 2007, from 53.6 percent to 43.1 percent. (This drop has come despite the fact that a majority of subjects say talk therapy is their preferred method of treatment.) Needless to say, pills have taken the place of therapists, as more than 75 percent of depressed patients are now treated with anti-depressants, which has led to a dramatic increase in medical spending on the disorder. Between 1998 and 2007, Medicare expenditures for depression increased from $0.52 billion (1998) to $2.25 billion (2007).

When anti-depressants work, they are little blue miracles. But they often don’t work, at least not at rates higher significantly higher than placebo. (Plus, they often have unpleasant side-effects, which leads more than half of patients to stop taking the drugs shortly after the worst symptoms disappear. And then they relapse, which helps explain why patients treated with SSRI’s have relapse rates above 75 percent.) And that’s why I’m troubled by the drop in talk therapy, as most studies demonstrate that the most effective treatment for depression is pharmaceuticals coupled with a good therapist.