Background. Depression is associated with an increased use of medical resources and reduced quality of life, cognitive functions, functionality and general health. The treatment of depression is limited by the scarcity of mental health professionals, as reflected in the mental health atlas of the World Health Organization.
Method. A randomised controlled trial that was not blinded was conducted. Family doctors referred patients older than 60 years who were suspected to have depression to the screening module. The PHQ-9 questionnaire, the Six-Item Screener, and previous diagnosis for psychiatric disorders were collected. Major depression was excluded. Those with a score from two to six on the PHQ-9 and with no comorbidities were referred to the Baseline Phase. A simple random process without blocking was applied. Groups of 7-10 participants engaged in weekly sessions over the course of three months. The control group was referred to their family physician. Reduction in depression score of the PHQ-9 was the main outcome.
Results and discussion. There were 40 patients in the control group (CG) and 41 in the intervention group (IG). 84% were women, 41% married and 41% reported at least primary education. The mean age for the GC was 69.7 years vs. 71.3 in the GI. The baseline mean MMSE score was 23.7 in the GC and 24.1 in the IG. No significant baseline differences between groups were reported. In the IG, 56% of the participants (n=23) displayed a decrease that was greater than or equal to 5 points on the PHQ-9 compared with 30% (n=12) in the control group. The CT group evidenced a marginal improvement.