Depression Over-Diagnosed and Over-Treated in the United States

In a recent study done by Johns Hopkins researchers, the criteria for a diagnosis of depression was not always met in patients diagnosed with depression. To be diagnosed with depression, an individual must have had major depressive episodes in the last twelve months. During the Johns Hopkins study of 5,639 people, only 38.4% met the required criteria. In another similar study of participants 65 years and older, only 1 out of 7 met the criteria.

On the plus side, the participants that did not meet the criteria used fewer services and treatments. On the downside, all the participants had been prescribed prescription antidepressants.

A number of factors likely contribute to the high false-positive rate of depression diagnosis in community settings, including the relatively low prevalence of depression in these settings, clinicians’ uncertainty about the diagnostic criteria and the ambiguity regarding sub-threshold syndromes,” Mojtabai said.

“Previous evidence has highlighted the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of major depression in community settings. The new data suggest that the under-diagnosis and under-treatment of many who are in need of treatment occurs in conjunction with the over-diagnosis and over-treatment of others who do not need such treatment. There is a need for improved targeting of diagnosis and treatment of depression and other mental disorders in these settings.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten adults have depression. But out of 235,067 adults surveyed in 45 states only 9.1% meet the criteria for depression.

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