Cover: Variation in the 12-Month Treatment Trajectories of Children and Adolescents After a Diagnosis of Depression

Variation in the 12-Month Treatment Trajectories of Children and Adolescents After a Diagnosis of Depression

Published in: JAMA Pediatrics [Epub November 2017]. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.3808

Posted on Jan 24, 2018

by Nina R. Joyce, Megan S. Schuler, Scott E. Hadland, Laura A. Hatfield


Depression during childhood and adolescence is heterogeneous. Treatment patterns are often examined in aggregate, yet there is substantial variability across individual treatment trajectories. Understanding this variability can help identify treatment gaps among youths with depression. OBJECTIVE: To characterize heterogeneity in 12-month trajectories of psychotherapy and antidepressant treatment in youths with depression.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This is a longitudinal-cohort study of youths 18 years or younger with a new diagnosis of depression and at least 12 months of follow-up following diagnosis, as determined from commercial insurance claims filed from 2007 to 2014. Latent class models were fit to summary measures of psychotherapy and antidepressant use in the 12 months following the index diagnosis. We examined variation in baseline health, health care utilization, and health outcomes across classes with similar patterns of psychotherapy and antidepressant use. Data analysis took place between June 2016 and March 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Psychotherapy and antidepressant use.


The cohort included 84,909 individuals with a mean (SD) age at index diagnosis of 15.0 (2.6) years, of whom 49,995 (59%) were female. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (n=14,625; 17%) and anxiety (n=12,358; 15%) were the most common comorbid diagnoses. During the assessment period, 59,023 individuals (70%) received psychotherapy at any point, and 33,997 individuals (40%) were dispensed antidepressants at any point. Eight classes with distinct treatment trajectories were identified, which we classified into 4 broad groups: 3 classes that received dual therapy (n=18,710; 22%), 2 classes that received antidepressant monotherapy (n=15,287; 18%), 2 classes that received psychotherapy monotherapy (n=40,313; 48%) and 1 class that received no treatment (n=10,599; 13%). The most common class received psychotherapy monotherapy (n=35,243; 42%) and had the lowest incidence of attempted suicide (0.8 per 100 person-years [PY]) and inpatient hospitalization (3.5 per 100 PY) during the assessment period and postassessment period (0.5 per 100 PY and 1.3 per 100 PY, respectively). The group receiving dual therapy had the highest incidence of attempted suicide during the assessment period (4.7-7.1 per 100 PY, depending on the class) and postassessment period (1.5-1.7 per 100 PY).

Conclusions and Relevance

In our sample, 13% of youths received no treatment, and 18% received antidepressants without concomitant psychotherapy. Summary measures of treatment can mask informative patterns of psychotherapy and antidepressant use. Latent class analysis can be used to identify subgroups of individuals with similar treatment trajectories and help identify treatment gaps under current practice patterns.

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