Despite More Treatments for Depression, Prevalence Doesn’t Decrease—Why?

This article by Peter Simons has been published on the Mad in the UK website. It begins:

“Between 1987 and 2007, the number of people receiving treatment for depression in the United States increased fourfold (and has continued to rise more gradually since). However, the prevalence of depression either stayed the same—or may have even increased—during that time. Researchers call this the “treatment-prevalence paradox” (TPP).

Now, in a new study, researchers review the seven possible explanations for this—and the evidence for and against each one. The study was led by Johan Ormel at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and published in Clinical Psychology Review. 

Ormel and his co-authors explain:

‘The increased availability of effective treatments should shorten depressive episodes, reduce relapses, and curtail recurrences. Combined, these treatment advances unequivocally should result in lower point-prevalence estimates of depression. Have these reductions occurred? The empirical answer clearly is NO.’

If depression functioned like other treatable medical conditions, the overall percentage of people experiencing any incidence of depression in their lifetime (lifetime prevalence) would remain stable. However, the point-prevalence (how many people experience it at any given time) would be decreased when more people receive successful treatment.

That is, the same number of people would likely present initially with depression. But if the treatment worked, and was delivered to many of those people, then a follow-up study would find a lower prevalence of depression.

Yet, according to the researchers, we have found just the opposite …”

You can read more from here.

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1 Comment

  1. Jay A. J. Shuck



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