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Improving treatment for depression

Published: 
23 April 2002

Health experts at the University of Southampton have begun a study to find out how GPs and their patients perceive depression, with the aim of improving the treatment of the condition in General Practice.

Depression accounts for around one-third of days lost from work due to ill health in the UK, and there is evidence to suggest an increased prevalence in recent years. In the early 1990s the direct costs of depression to the UK health service were estimated to be £147 million.

Professor Tony Kendrick, Director of the Community Clinical Sciences Division of the Medical School, is spearheading the study, which has been awarded a grant of over £100,00 from the Medical Research Council as part of its Primary Care Initiative.

He said: "We need to explore why the treatment of depression is so variable, inconsistent and poorly targeted on those with major, clinical depression in General Practice. We know that anti-depressants such as Prozac are being prescribed much more, but often for mild depression, and the targeting of treatment could be improved."

The study will involve in-depth interviews with GPs, depressed patients, non-depressed patients and significant others of depressed patients.

The researchers will try to clarify how patients decide whether or not they are depressed, at what stage they chose to consult a doctor, and how and why doctors make decisions to treat depression. The study will examine patient's beliefs about drug treatments, counselling and alternative therapies.

Professor Kendrick said: "Doctors often perceive that patients do not want to take antidepressants. A survey found that the large majority of the public believes (wrongly) that antidepressants are addictive, and few believe depression should be treated with drugs.

"Given the prevalence of these attitudes however, GPs are quite right to think twice before labelling patients as depressed and giving them treatment."

Related Staff Member

Notes for editors

  1. A digital photograph of Professor Kendrick is available from Press and Public Relations.
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £215 million.

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