3 posts tagged “depression research”

Key takeaways from a recent study on antidepressants

Posted 3 months ago by

The World Health Organization reports 300 million people live with depression, but less than half receive effective treatment.

A recent study in the journal The Lancet has been making headlines for comparing the effectiveness of antidepressant medications — information that is often lacking for patients trying to make informed choices about their treatments. They found that all of the medications were modestly more effective than a placebo and some were more effective than others. With help from our research team, we took a closer look at what these findings really mean and how they compare to what members are reporting on PatientsLikeMe.

Let’s break down the research

Researchers looked at 474 placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials including a total of 100,000+ paients on their first line of treatment for major depressive disorder. They compared the effectiveness of 21 different antidepressants to each other and a placebo. The medications were randomly assigned.

Key takeaways

  • Some antidepressants, such as escitalopram (Lexapro), mirtazapine (Remeron), paroxetine (Paxil), agomelatine (Melitor), and sertraline (Zoloft) were more effective with lower dropout rates (patients who stopped taking the medication due to side effects or other factors).
  • Medications like Reboxetine (Edronax), trazodone (Desyrel), and fluvoxamine (Fevarin) had lower efficacy.
  • The antidepressants with the highest efficacy were amitriptyline (Elavil) and escitalopram (Lexapro), while fluoxetine (Prozac) had the lowest.
  • All of the antidepressants were more effective than a placebo in treating MDD, although the effects were modest.

Some limitations

  • The majority of the clinical trials included in this study were selective and didn’t include people with more complex situations (like living with another condition in addition to MDD).
  • The study didn’t include people with treatment-resistant depression (which could be as many as 30% of people with MDD who have tried two or more medications).
  • Researchers only analyzed short-term treatment (8 weeks), so it’s unclear how the antidepressants may work in the long-term.
  • The study only looked at treatment effectiveness, not tolerability (when the medication works but a person stops taking it because of the side effects).
  • The findings were general and based on average results (across all people in the trials), so there’s little insight on targeting treatments for individuals.

On PatientsLikeMe

Here are some commonly reported ways PatientsLikeMe members are treating their major depressive disorder (MDD):

Bupropion (Wellbutrin)

  • 2,000+ members report taking bupropion (Wellbutrin)
  • 63% say that it’s at least moderately effective in treating their MDD

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

  • 1,800+ members report taking duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • 67% say that it’s at least moderately effective in treating their MDD

Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

  • 1,700+ members report taking venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
  • 74% say that it’s at least moderately effective in treating their MDD

Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • 1,500+ members report taking sertraline (Zoloft)
  • 55% say that it’s at least moderately effective in treating their MDD

Fluoxetine (Prozac)

  • 1,500+ members report taking fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • 61% say that it’s at least moderately effective in treating their MDD

Finding what works for you

Many patients have tried several antidepressants in their search to find what works for them (if you’re a PatientsLikeMe member, you can check out what others have shared about this in a recent study). Some studies also show that medication may be more effective when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy. Talk to your doctor to find the best approach to treatment for you.

Are you on an antidepressant? Join PatientsLikeMe today to share your experience and learn from the community.

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The benefits of just a bit of exercise (+”forest bathing”?)

Posted 5 months ago by

If frequent, long workouts aren’t in the cards, here’s some good news: A new research analysis based on decades’ of studies shows the potential mental health perks of even just a smidgen of light exercise. Also, see the results of a Japanese study on something called “forest bathing.”

Exercise linked to good vibes

“Even a Little Exercise Might Make Us Happier,” a recent New York Times headline proclaims. It might sound obvious, but it’s still positive news — especially for those who may not be able to meet physical activity guidelines for the general population (30+ minutes of exercise on most days).

“According to a new review of research about good moods and physical activity, people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise. And any type of exercise may be helpful… The type of exercise did not seem to matter. Some happy people walked or jogged. Others practiced yoga-style posing and stretching.”

For the published review, researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed the results of 23 studies since 1980 that explored the links between physical activity and happiness. The studies were mostly observational (not strict clinical trials) but they involved a total of 500,000 people ranging from adolescents to the very old and from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

The Times notes that happiness is a rather “subjective, squishy concept,” and it’s not clear from these studies if working out causes happiness or if the two commonly occur together. But overall, the results are notable because “the amount of exercise needed to influence happiness was slight… In several studies, people who worked out only once or twice a week said they felt much happier than those who never exercised.” Exercising even more frequently may bring even greater happiness, the researchers say. From what my friend tells me, since he started getting Boston Tennis Lessons to ease him back into exercising, he has felt happier.

Talk with your doctor about healthy ways for you to squeeze in physical activity — ideas you’re likely to enjoy and stick with. For some people with Parkinson’s disease, it’s walking to their favorite tunes, and for those living with cancer, it may be chair yoga.

In general, try not to stress about not getting enough exercise — other recent research shows that dwelling on it isn’t good for your health.

What’s “forest bathing”?

Here’s another headline that caught our eye: “Just being outside can improve your psychological health, and maybe your physical health too.”

Quartz summed up about $4 million of Japanese research on the benefits of something called “forest bathing” (essentially, it’s just sitting or standing in the woods).

“Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything,” Quartz reports. “The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.”

Inhaling the essential oils of a forest, generally called phytoncide, appears to give (healthy) people an immune system boost and reduce stress. Even getting a “dose of nature” in an urban park setting can help with stress relief, studies have shown.

Some health conditions may make it difficult to spend time outdoors, such as lupus (which can bring sun sensitivity — check out these photosensitivity tips). Connect with members of your community on PatientsLikeMe or talk with your doctor about ways to safely spend time outside, considering your particular condition.

How do you squeeze in a bit of activity or outdoor time these days? Join PatientsLikeMe today to swap ideas with the community!

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