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October 8, 1997

Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression in Late LifeConsensus Statement Update

Author Affiliations

From the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md (Drs Lebowitz, Pearson, and Niederehe); University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Dr Schneider); University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa (Dr Reynolds); Cornell University Medical Center, White Plains, NY (Drs Alexopoulos, Bruce, and Meyers); University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (Dr Conwell); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Drs Katz, Morrison, and Parmelee); and Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, Pa (Dr Mossey).

JAMA. 1997;278(14):1186-1190. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550140078045

Objective.  —To reexamine the conclusions of the 1991 National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel on Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression in Late Life in light of current scientific evidence.

Participants.  —Participants included National Institutes of Health staff and experts drawn from the Planning Committee and presenters of the 1991 Consensus Development Conference.

Evidence.  —Participants summarized relevant data from the world scientific literature on the original questions posed for the conference.

Process.  —Participants reviewed the original consensus statement and identified areas for update. The list of issues was circulated to all participants and amended to reflect group agreement. Selected participants prepared first drafts of the consensus update for each issue. All drafts were read by all participants and were amended and edited to reflect group consensus.

Conclusions.  —The review concluded that, although the initial consensus statement still holds, there is important new information in a number of areas. These areas include the onset and course of late-life depression; comorbidity and disability; sex and hormonal issues; newer medications, psychotherapies, and approaches to long-term treatment; impact of depression on health services and health care resource use; late-life depression as a risk factor for suicide; and the importance of the heterogeneous forms of depression. Depression in older people remains a significant public health problem. The burden of unrecognized or inadequately treated depression is substantial. Efficacious treatments are available. Aggressive approaches to recognition, diagnosis, and treatment are warranted to minimize suffering, improve overall functioning and quality of life, and limit inappropriate use of health care resources.