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Managing depression in older age: psychological interventions

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Full Article: Managing depression in older age- psychological interventions

Cuijpers P1, Karyotaki E2, Pot AM3, Park M4, Reynolds CF 3rd5.


The number of studies on psychological treatments of depression in older adults has increased considerably in the past years. Therefore, we conducted an updated meta-analysis of these studies. A total of 44 studies comparing psychotherapies to control groups, other therapies or pharmacotherapy could be included. The overall effect size indicating the difference between psychotherapy and control groups was g=0.64 (95% CI: 0.47-0.80), which corresponds with a NNT of 3. These effects were maintained at 6 months or longer post randomization (g=0.27; 95%CI: 0.16-0.37). Specific types of psychotherapies that were found to be effective included cognitive behavior therapy (g=0.45; 95% CI: 0.29-0.60), life review therapy (g=0.59; 95% CI: 0.36-0.82) and problem-solving therapy (g=0.46; 95% CI: 0.18-0.74). Treatment compared to waiting list control groups resulted in larger effect sizes than treatments compared to care-as-usual and other control groups (p<0.05). Studies with lower quality resulted in higher effect sizes than high-quality studies (p<0.05). Direct comparisons between different types of psychotherapy suggested that cognitive behavior therapy and problem-solving therapy may be more effective than non-directive counseling and other psychotherapies may be less effective than other therapies. This should be considered with caution, however, because of the small number of studies. There were not enough studies to examine the long-term effects of psychotherapies and to compare psychotherapy with pharmacotherapy or combined treatments. We conclude that it is safe to assume that psychological therapies in general are effective in late-life depression, and this is especially well-established for cognitive behavior therapy and problem-solving therapy.

Published: Maturitas. 2014 Oct;79(2):160-9.