By Chelsea Karnash
BALTIMORE, MD (CBS) – New research shows that most people diagnosed with depression do not actually meet the criteria for the illness.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at a sample of 5,639 people from across the country that had been diagnosed with depression in a non-hospital setting between 2009 and 2010.
Participants in the study were then re-evaluated during a face-to-face interview to see if they met the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which includes having at least one major depressive episode (MDE) a year — defined as a debilitating loss of interest in daily life and a depressed mood lasting at least two weeks.
What researchers found is that only 38.4% of participants met the criteria for having had a major depressive episode and therefore, for MDD. Older adults were less likely than younger people to have had a major depressive episode, with only 14.3% of those 65 years or older meeting MDE criteria.
The study also found, however, that the majority of participants had been prescribed psychiatric medication, whether they had met the criteria for MDD or not. In fact, 69.4% of those with “unconfirmed diagnoses” had used medication to treat their symptoms.
Based on their research, the study’s authors say that depression may be overdiagnosed and overtreated, and there is a need to improve the targeting of diagnosis and treatments nationwide.