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Personalized doctor office interventions show small potential for preventing depression

Personalized primary care-delivered interventions may hold some promise for preventing major depression in adults, according to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Major depression, an important cause of human suffering, is projected to rank as the greatest contributor to disease burden in high-income countries within the next 15 years. It is possible to prevent depression, however, little is known about the effectiveness of such prevention efforts. Because of its prevalence and because so many people receive treatment in primary care, researchers sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a depression prevention intervention for adult patients implemented in primary practice.

More than 3,000 patients at 70 primary care centers in several cities in Spain were randomly assigned to receive either usual care or a depression intervention. For each patient, the primary care provider communicated individual risk for depression based on characteristics, such as marital status, living situation, occupation, and health history. The physicians then developed a tailored psychosocial program to prevent depression.

At 18 months, about 7.4 percent of patients in the intervention group developed major depression compared with about 9.4 percent in the control group. Based on this modest but statistically insignificant reduction in depression, the researchers suggest that additional study of this approach may be warranted.