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Quality of Treatment and Disability Compensation in Depression: Comparison of 2 Nationally Representative Samples With a 10-Year Interval in Finland

J Clin Psychiatry 2007;68:1886-1893

Objective: Depressive disorders cause substantial work impairment that can lead to disability compensation. The authors compared treatment received for depression preceding disability pension between 2 nationally representative samples with a 10-year interval.

Method: The medical statements for 2 random samples drawn from the Finnish national disability pension registers, representing populations granted a disability pension for DSM-III-R major depression during a 12-month period from October 1993 through September 1994 (N = 277) and for ICD-10 depressive disorders (F32-F33) from October 2003 through September 2004 (N = 265) were examined. The proportions of persons receiving weekly psychotherapy, antidepressants, adequate antidepressant dosage, sequential antidepressant trials, lithium augmentation, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) were compared.

Results: No significant differences emerged between the 2 samples, except for the adequacy of antidepressant dosage. Few subjects in either of the samples (8.7% for 1993-1994 vs. 10.6% for 2003-2004, p = .45) had received weekly psychotherapy. Most had received antidepressants (87.4% vs. 85.6%, p = .55) with increasingly adequate dosage (75.6% vs. 85.0%, p = .02), but only a minority had received sequential antidepressant trials (39.5% vs. 44.5%, p = .24). Lithium augmentation and ECT were rare (1.1% vs. 1.5%, p = .66 and 4.0% vs. 1.5%, p = .08, respectively). Even in 2003-2004, over half of the subjects were granted a disability pension without sequential antidepressant trials.

Conclusion: This nationally representative study indicates that, despite an increased antidepressant use and improved practice guidelines for depression, a considerable proportion of the people granted long-term compensation for depression seem to be suboptimally treated. Given the enormous costs of the disability, attention to the quality of treatment provided for depression is warranted before long-term disability compensations are granted.