By Margarita Nahapetyan
The Women's Health Australia study has revealed that one in five young Aussie women have been diagnosed with depression. Almost 18 per cent of the young women have reported higher rates of depression compared to 13 per cent in the age of 53 to 58 and 10 per cent in women between 79 to 84 years of age. All of them were told by a doctor that they are in a worse mental health than their mothers or grandmothers, and all of them have been taking antidepressants.
The joint study conducted by the University of Newcastle and University of Queensland found that depression is exerting a sway on the Australian women and has become one of a major women health issues in the country. The study is the latest to emerge from a longitudinal study on women's health.
Researcher has tracked the health of 40,000 Australian women since 1995. The scientists have examined women's lifestyle, their use of health services and health outcomes. It was found that depression medications were the most commonly prescribed for young women, with an average of seven claims per year. The study also showed a strong connection between obesity and a rise in the incidence of diabetes. Almost 90 per cent of middle-aged women and two-thirds of older women who had claims for diabetes medication were overweight or obese. Therefore, the use of complementary and alternative medicines was also found to be on the rise.
Julie Byles, Professor at Quensland University, who co-authored the study, said that the research also noted that the prevalence of antidepressant use increased with age. "8 per cent of younger women and 14 per cent of mid-age women used antidepressants during the surveyed period," Byles said. "This figure jumps to 18 per cent in older women." According to the expert, the findings reflect a "strong underlying need for mental health care."
While antidepressants topped the medication list among young women, among middle aged and older women, the most common PBS claims were for cardiovascular medications, claimed for 28 per cent of middle-aged women and 75 per cent of the older women in 2005. Older women, in particular, said that costs of medication had a big impact on their ability to manage their incomes. The out-of-pocket costs as a part of multiple medication use were also stated in the report, which used the PBS and Medicare data. There was evidence that women who made claims for common medications had less socio-economic advantage. "The relationship between medication use for chronic conditions and other health behaviors such as smoking, means that attention to these behaviors is important in reducing medication costs as well as improving health," said Professor Byles. The differences were not significant in patterns of claims between women living in urban, rural and remote areas. The study also found that depressed young women were less likely to be married or in a de facto relationship and in most cases were divorced.
The use of anti-depressants does not clearly show the extent of depression among women. Researchers found that among young women with a diagnosis of depression, 40% had not used prescribed antidepressants at all. "Many of the women who need these medications may not be getting them, so in fact the medication use might be just the tip of the iceberg if we're looking at the problem of mental health needs," said Byles.
The good news is that life expectancy for Australian women is increasing and now its rank is being second in the world, but the bad news is the increasing risk factors which cause chronic illnesses, injuries and premature death. These include overweight and obesity, poor diet, stress, smoking, physical inactivity and alcohol intake.
So what is the main cause of depression and what is the best way to deal with it? Literally depression is defined as a mental state "characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity." But it is almost impossible to definitely determine its root. It must be mentioned that every person comes from a different background, resides in a different environment and the reason for each has to be diverse therefore. It can happen to anyone on any stage of their life, there is not much to be done in order to prevent it.
In general, the severe depressive illnesses, particularly those that are recurrent, will require antidepressant medications along with psychotherapy for the best outcome. If a person suffers one major depressive episode, he or she has a 50 per cent chance of a second episode. Whether antidepressant medication would be the best treatment option depends on how severe the person's depression is, their history of illness, their age, and their personal preferences. Most people do best with a combination of medications for depression treatment.
Most antidepressants are believed to work by slowing the removal of certain chemicals from our brain. By restoring chemical balance of the brain, antidepressants help relieve the symptoms of depression. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and nor epinephrine). Neurotransmitters are needed for normal brain function and are involved in the control of mood and in other responses and functions, such as eating, sleep, pain, thinking, the extreme sadness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in life. Antidepressants are no happy pills and may come with risks as well as benefits for a depression recovery. The are prescription-only drugs that have to be taken under a doctor's control and supervision.
They are, however, the only depression treatment option, and there is a good evidence that they do really help. If depression is moderate even a short-term drug treatment can help, or even psychotherapy alone might be enough. But for severe depression there is no effective treatment other than antidepressant medication. These drugs also may be used to treat other conditions, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, premenstrual syndrome, chronic pain, and eating disorders.
Patients often are tempted to stop their medication too soon, especially when they begin feeling better. Sometimes, the doctor will need to try a variety of antidepressants before finding the medication or combination of medications that is most effective for the patient. Antidepressant medications are not habit-forming, so there need not be concerned about that. And, of course, it is important to be patient, because the treatment of depression takes some time.