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Antidepressants May Work Better Than Exercise for Elderly Depression

Antidepressant therapy more effective than supervised physical activity at three and six months

THURSDAY, July 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Antidepressants may be more effective than exercise for seniors with depression, according to a study published in the July 1 issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Jesús López-Torres Hidalgo, M.D., from the Albacete Zone VIII Health Center in Spain, and colleagues randomly assigned 347 patients (65 years or older) with a clinically significant depressive episode to either a supervised physical exercise program or an antidepressant treatment by their general practitioners.

The researchers found that the cumulative incidence of improvement in depressive symptomatology in the physical activity group after one month was not significantly different from that in the antidepressant treatment group. However, at the end of three and six months, respectively, the proportion of those who showed improvement was significantly greater in the antidepressant group (60.6 versus 49.7 percent) when compared with the physical activity group (45.6 versus 32.9 percent). The number of patients withdrawing was greater in the physical activity group, but the proportion of participants with adverse side effects was greater in the antidepressant group.

“Although improvement was initially similar in both treatment groups, antidepressant treatment was superior in the medium term, despite giving rise to a greater number of adverse effects,” the authors write.

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