NIH News Advisory
National Institute of Mental Health

Tuesday, September 18, 2001
4:00 p.m. EST

Rayford Kytle
(301) 443-4536

NIMH-Funded Researchers Show Better Treatment for Depression Is Cost-Effective

Researchers funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have found that an inexpensive program that trains primary care providers to work with patients and mental health specialists to diagnose and properly treat depression can reduce the time that participating patients spend clinically depressed. Over a two-year period, the program reduced the duration of participating patients' depression by well over a month. The training program cost less than $500 per depressed patient and increased the time that the depressed patients spent employed during that two-year period by about four workweeks.

NIMH Director Steven E. Hyman, M.D. said, "This study shows that reducing the suffering that depression brings to nearly 19 million Americans a year, in a cost-effective way, is an achievable goal."

Forty-six primary care clinics in six managed care organizations participated in the study. The clinics were located in geographically and socio-economically diverse communities across the U.S. The research team randomly assigned the clinics to conduct depression care as they usually would or to participate in one of two interventions, which offered training to clinicians, patients and nurses, and resources to obtain effective medication or psychotherapy for depression. Researchers identified 1,356 patients with current depression through screening 27,332 consecutive patients.

The study's two-year data are being published in the September 19, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A team of researchers assembled by RAND conducted the study. It was initially funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. NIMH funded the study's principal investigator to develop and initiate the study, provided additional funds for the two-year follow-up and is providing funds for a four-year evaluation of the program's effects.

NIMH is one of the 26 components that make up the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.