Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Preventing depression in people with age-related macular degeneration

In Brief

Preventing depression in people with age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in older Americans, often leads to depression. One study found that about 30% of people will develop depression within a few months after AMD is diagnosed in both eyes. A study reports that it may be possible to delay, and possibly even prevent, depression in some of these people by using problem-solving therapy to improve their coping skills.

Researchers at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia randomized 206 people recently diagnosed with bilateral AMD to one of two groups. People in one group received the usual medical care for AMD, while those in the other group participated in six 45- to 60-minute problem-solving training sessions in addition to receiving the usual medical care. The problem-solving sessions, led by a nurse or counselor and conducted in the patients' homes, involved identifying problems caused by loss of eyesight and finding ways to cope with or work around them.

Two months later, people who learned the problem-solving techniques were only half as likely to have developed depression as people in the usual-care group. But the protective benefit did not last. At the six-month mark, prevalence of depression was virtually the same in both groups. But the researchers think the problem-solving technique is promising, and it may be that people need periodic "booster" sessions to continue benefiting from it.

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