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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page HE07


Treatment seems to help older people remain independent.

THE QUESTION Depression and physical decline in older people form a classic chicken-and-egg situation. But regardless of which comes first, loss of the ability to live independently often results. Might treating the depression make the physical problems less likely?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 1,801 people aged 60 and older, all diagnosed with depression, to continue receiving normal care from their regular doctors or to see depression specialists in addition to their doctors. After a year, depression had improved substantially in 19 percent of those in the usual-care group, compared with 45 percent of those treated by a specialist. Those who were less depressed reported more improvement in physical functioning -- especially in their ability to manage money and medications -- than did those whose emotional troubles remained.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? Older people. Depression affects about 15 percent of those over age 65.

CAVEATS The findings on physical functioning came from self-reports. The authors described the difference between groups in physical functioning scores as modest, but enough to affect people's ability to live independently.

BOTTOM LINE Older people concerned about their emotional health may want to talk with a doctor about specialized treatment for depression.

FIND THIS STUDY March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; abstract available online at www.americangeriatrics.org.

LEARN MORE ABOUT depression in older people at www.aagpgpa.org and www.niapublications.org.


Exercise or acupuncture may thwart pelvic girdle pain.

THE QUESTION The bony structure known as the pelvic girdle protects a developing fetus. Pregnant women often complain of pain in this area, especially in the back. Might special exercises or acupuncture relieve these aches?

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© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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