Harvard Mental Health Letter

Options for mild or moderate depression

Exercise, psychotherapy, and relaxation techniques are good first choices.

Major depression is the most common type of mood disorder in the United States, affecting about 15 million American adults (almost 7% of the population) in a typical year. For many of those affected, symptoms are mild or moderate. One nationally representative survey of Americans with depression, for example, found that symptoms were mild in 20% of people, moderate in 50%, and severe in 30%.

A meta-analysis adds to the growing evidence that antidepressants work best for people with severe symptoms of depression, as we've reported before. But this latest study provides a reminder that for patients newly diagnosed with milder forms of depression, it may make sense to try psychotherapy, exercise, and other nondrug treatments first.

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