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For Immediate Release:
August 26, 2002
For more information contact:
DHS Communications
(213) 240-8144 Pager: (213) 990-7107

330,000 County Adults May Have Undiagnosed Depression
Increased screening and treatment is needed

LOS ANGELES – Results from the 1999-2000 Los Angeles County Health Survey indicate that 9% of adults in the county (an estimated 623,000 people) have at some time in the past been diagnosed with a depressive disorder. An additional 5% of adults (330,000 people) reported feeling “sad, blue, or depressed” all or most of the time in the past month but had never been diagnosed with depression, suggesting that many adults may have depression that is undiagnosed. Among adults with a past diagnosis of depression, one-third (207,000 people) reported depressive symptoms all or most of the time in the past month, suggesting that many of these persons are not receiving adequate treatment for their depression.

“Depression is an extremely common condition and one that is often under-appreciated in our society,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “The survey results highlight the toll of depression in the county and indicate that many adults with depression or depressive symptoms are not receiving needed services.”

Among persons with depressive symptoms and a past diagnosis of depression, 29% reported not having health insurance and 38% not getting mental health services in the past year because they could not afford it.

“Efforts are clearly needed to reduce these barriers and to increase screening for and treatment of depression by primary health care providers,” said Paul A. Simon, M.D., M.P.H., director of the county office that oversees the survey. “In addition, efforts are needed to improve linkages between these providers and mental health care specialists to treat persons with more severe depression.”

“It is reasonable to expect an 80% overall success rate for treating depression, which means a restored sense of well being and improved daily function, said Roderick Shaner, M.D., Medical Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “Better access to mental health specialists who use clinical strategies for so- called ‘treatment-resistant’ depression can improve outcomes.”

Depressive disorders can have profound adverse effects on family and other personal relationships, productivity in the workplace, and overall quality of life. The survey found that persons with a history of diagnosed depression reported more than three times as many unhealthy days (a measure of health-related quality of life) in the past month than those not diagnosed with depression (16.7 days vs. 5.4 days, respectively). Persons with diagnosed depression were also more likely to have other chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, asthma, and other chronic respiratory diseases.

“The good news is that depression is a very treatable condition,” said Dr. Fielding. “Persons diagnosed with depression can be treated with highly effective medications and with counseling, providing them the opportunity to lead more fulfilling and productive lives.”

The full report, “Depressive Disorders Among Los Angeles County Adults” can be accessed online at: http://lapublichealth.org/ha/

The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a population-based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health- related issues for adults and children. Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services. The survey was repeated in September 1999 through April 2000 and previously in 1997.

Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,800 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $465 million.