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Only about 1 in 3 people newly diagnosed seek timely treatment for depression

March 6, 2018—Depression isn't the same as feeling sad. It's a serious medical condition that can disrupt daily life and make it difficult to function normally. And you can't just snap out of it. The good news: It's very treatable. Unfortunately, many people aren't getting the help they need and deserve, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers looked at data on more than 240,000 people who had recently been diagnosed with depression by their primary care provider. Of these people, only about 1 in 3 started treatment for their condition over the next three months. Patients began treatment at higher rates as the severity of depression increased.

The research also uncovered some differences among racial, ethnic and age groups. Asian, black and Hispanic people were at least 30 percent less likely to start treatment compared to non-Hispanic white people. What's more, people 60 and older were half as likely to begin treatment as those 44 and under.

More studies are needed to pinpoint why many people don't start treatment for their depression.

The study appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. For more on the findings, read the study's abstract online.

You have options

There isn't just one treatment for depression—there are several. They include:

Counseling, also called talk therapy. There are different types of talk therapy, and they work in different ways. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people change patterns of negative thinking and develop coping strategies. Interpersonal therapy helps people address relationship troubles that may contribute to depression.

Medicines. Antidepressant medications act on brain chemicals to treat the symptoms of depression. They can take weeks to start working, so don't be discouraged if you don't feel better immediately. Often, medicines and counseling work best in combination.

Support groups. In group meetings, people with depression (and sometimes their families) share experiences and coping skills.

If you think you or someone you care about might have depression, check out our assessment.

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