Adolescent Primary Care Patients' Preferences for Depression Treatment

Published in: Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, v. 33, no. 2, Mar. 2006, p. 198-207

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Lisa H. Jaycox, Joan Rosenbaum Asarnow, Cathy D. Sherbourne, Margaret M. Rea, Anne P. LaBorde, Kenneth B. Wells

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Despite efficacious treatments for depression in youth, current data indicate low rates of care. To better understand reasons for these low rates of care, the authors examined treatment preferences for depression treatment. Adolescents (N=444) who screened positive for depression at a primary care visit completed measures of predisposing, enabling, and need characteristics thought to be related to help seeking. Results indicated a strong tendency for adolescents to prefer active treatment (72%) versus watchful waiting (28%), and for youth to prefer counseling (50%) versus medication (22%). Female gender, prior treatment experience, and current depression and anxiety were related to preference for active treatment over watchful waiting. In multivariable analyses, female gender and current anxiety symptoms remained significant predictors of preference for active treatment. Ethnicity, attitudes about depression care, prior treatment experience, and anxiety symptoms were related to preference for medication over counseling. In multivariable analyses, those with negative attitudes about depression treatment generally, with positive attitudes about treatment via medication, or with current anxiety symptoms were more likely to prefer medication. Youth preference for counseling over medication may contribute to low adherence to medication treatment and underscores the importance of patient education aimed at promoting positive expectations for treatments.

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