PORTLAND, Ore. — Only one-third of people newly diagnosed with depression go forward with getting treatment, a new study finds.

The findings, released by Kaiser Permanente, are disturbing for healthcare professionals, who are trying harder to detect and diagnose depression in patients during primary care visits. The numbers are also surprising considering the increasing numbers of treatments available for those suffering from the condition.

Woman crying, depressed
A new study finds that only slightly more than a third of people who are diagnosed with depression for the first time go forward with treatment or fill a prescription for medication.

Depression is still difficult to diagnose, even with the extra focus on it nationwide, and many people struggle with the stigma of being diagnosed with the disorder.

Examining a pool of 240,000 patients diagnosed with depression for the first time, the researchers found 35.7% filled a prescription for an antidepressant or began psychotherapy within 90 days. The numbers were stronger for patients diagnosed with more severe forms of the condition, with half following through with their doctor’s orders.

“There was some older, more limited evidence that many people who are diagnosed with depression do not begin treatment, for reasons ranging from stigma to challenges accessing behavioral health services,” says Beth Waitzfelder, lead author and investigator of the study, in a press release.

“Our study, which was much larger than previous studies, provides important new evidence about the current scope of the problem among leading health care systems across the country that are striving to improve depression care in primary care settings,” she adds.

The study found that ethnic minorities, including Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians, were at least 30% less likely to get treatment after a diagnosis. Patients diagnosed after the age of 60 were half as likely to get treatment than those diagnosed before the age of 44.

The researchers studied patients who received diagnoses of depression at five major healthcare centers in primary care settings between 2010 and 2013. Eight in 10 people who did get treatment began antidepressant medication, but all ethnic minorities were more likely to start psychotherapy instead of antidepressants.

It’s estimated that 16 million Americans experience at least one depressive episode per year. The estimated overall cost of this disorder in related medical care and lost productivity is $210 billion.

The study was published in Journal of General Internal Medicine.

About Ben Renner

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