Objective: To examine the treatment of and outcome for elderly patients presenting with depressive symptoms.
Method: 100 consecutive elderly patients presenting to an old age psychiatric service with depressed mood were studied, 51 met DSM-III-R criteria for major depression and 49 met criteria for a range of other diagnoses. Demographic details, psychiatric history and clinical examination including Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Mini-Mental State Examination and Cumulative Illness Rating Scale scores were recorded at first presentation. Treatment of index episode was recorded and outcome assessed at time of follow up (mean of 19.1 ± 9.1 months later).
Results: 57% of the major depressives and 41% of the other diagnoses had a good outcome. Within the other diagnoses group 30% of the comorbid anxiety/depression patients and none of the patients with dysthymia or personality disorder had a good outcome. In the major depression group there was no clear association between outcome and any clinical or demographic measure. Within the other diagnoses group a good outcome was significantly associated with being younger, having had more psychiatric admissions and being less likely to require benzodiazepine treatment (p < 0.05). The two groups received similar treatment except that the other diagnoses group were more likely to have had psychotherapy and the major depressed patients to have had ECT (trend) than the major depressed group.
Conclusions: The outcome for patients with major depression is similar to that found in previous studies. Patients with depressive syndromes associated with dysthymia, personality disorder, or comorbid anxiety/depression respond poorly to conventional treatments of depression.