Quick Study

Teenage girls and recurring depression

Monday, November 22, 2010; 3:59 PM

Teenage girls may be more susceptible than boys to recurring depression

THE QUESTION Even after treatment, depression sometimes comes back. Among teenagers, what might contribute to this recurrence?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 196 teens who had been treated for depression at an average age of 14. By random assignment, they took the antidepressant fluoxetine, received cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of talk therapy aimed at learning to counter negative thinking), took the drug and had therapy in combination or took a placebo. After three months, teens taking the placebo who had not recovered could switch to another treatment group. Within a five-year span, 96 percent of the teens were deemed symptom-free. However, in that time, about 47 percent had a recurrence of depression, girls more often than boys (57 vs. 33 percent). Teens who had an anxiety disorder along with depression were also more likely to have depression return (62 vs. 42 percent). Though the combination of antidepressant and talk therapy had been the most effective short-term treatment, it had no effect on whether teenagers had a recurrence.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Teens with depression. Each year, an estimated 2 million American youths 12 to 17 years old have at least one major depressive episode. About two-fifths of them receive treatment.

CAVEATS Whether the results apply to teens treated with other medications or types of therapy is unclear.

FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 1 online issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. www.archgenpsychiatry.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT depression among teenagers at www.nimh.nih.gov/health (search for "high school") and www.kidsh ealth.org (click "for teens," then search for "depression").

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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