Women Need A More Comprehensive Approach to Managing Depression
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

While half of young women aged 20-29 felt they would "just get over" depression and relied heavily on support of friends and family, the vast majority of women aged 60-69 reported taking medication and not seeking support, according to a new national survey. Overall, findings show that most women are neither aware of the age-dependent circumstances that can put them at risk for depression, nor do they adopt a comprehensive treatment approach that can increase the chances of becoming well.

To help women of all ages better recognize and manage depression, Eli Lilly and Company and the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) are launching a new educational program called Ages & Stages. As part of this program, a survey of more than 1,200 women with depression revealed that their views of, and experiences with, the illness varied considerably depending on their age, often leading to misunderstanding of the illness, misdiagnosis and lack of proper care.

"The results of the survey highlight the need for age-specific information to ensure that all women are seeking proper treatment for their depression," said Dr. Vivien Burt, professor of psychiatry, David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. "Younger women need to understand that depression is a real illness that requires treatment, while older women need to know that support is a key component of a successful treatment program. Ages & Stages covers all aspects of depression and tailors the information to the specific needs of women at different points in their lives."

The Ages & Stages program, an extension of Support Partners, provides women with a comprehensive guide that leads them through different life stages and situations that could trigger depression. Special emphasis is placed on the changing role of supportive networks, as well as tips on whom women can turn to at each stage of their lives. The guide is accessible by visiting http://www.supportpartnersprogram.com/agesandstages.jsp.

"The Ages & Stages program sheds light on how women are affected by depression throughout their lives, and provides important information for women coping with depression," said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of the National Women's Health Resource Center.

The Ages & Stages guidebook incorporates various important topics into the following chapters:

Young Women and Depression (20s-early 40s)
Younger women tend to misunderstand depression and underestimate the seriousness of the illness. In fact, nearly 60 percent of women under age 29 thought that they would just "get over" their depression.

In this section of the guidebook, women will learn that, while depression can occur at any age, the first episode of major depression is most likely to happen in early adulthood. It also discusses situations when the risk for developing depression may be increased as a result of life events including a new job, failed relationship and pregnancy. Women in this age group may turn to friends and family members for support.

The Menopause Transition (mid-40s-50s)
The mid-40s through 50s are a time of tremendous physical change as the reproductive years come to an end. The survey revealed that some women in their 40s and 50s (12 percent) mistakenly attribute the symptoms of depression to menopause, which may result in these women being undiagnosed and untreated.

In this section, women will learn how to identify the symptoms of depression and the importance of working with a healthcare professional. It also focuses on other common causes of depression during this time, including "empty nest syndrome," divorce and aging parents. Additionally, the guide offers suggestions for ways women can approach someone for support, and discusses the importance of talking about their depression with their spouse or partner.

Older Women and Depression (60-69)
Older women are often times forced to manage their depression alone. Less than 20 percent of women 60-69 surveyed included "talk to family and friends" as a way to manage their depression. Women in this age group are also most likely to be dealing with the loss of a spouse, which can add to their solitude.

This section of the guidebook incorporates the understanding that finding support in a woman's later years may be more challenging, as family members may have moved away and spouses may no longer be present. The guidebook offers insights into how these women can find the support they need and encourages them to seek help from a healthcare professional.

About the Support Partners Program
Support Partners is an educational program that offers a step-by-step approach to building partnerships between people living with depression and those who want to help them. A Support Partner is someone who is committed to helping a friend or loved one with depression. He or she provides assistance as needed, builds on the strengths of the person living with depression, and encourages actions that allow recovery to happen. Anyone can be a Support Partner, including family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and religious/spiritual leaders.

The National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) is the nation's leading independent, non-profit health information source for women. NWHRC addresses a broad range of women's health concerns and issues and develops comprehensive and objective health information based on the latest advances in health research. NWHRC focuses on disease prevention and wellness, and connects women with reliable health information sources. Its programs include the development of national health campaigns, its bimonthly newsletter, The National Women's Health Report, development and distribution of consumer educational materials, and its Web site, http://www.healthywomen.org.