St Michael LogoA new women’s health study by experts at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) claims that only less than half of men and women in Ontario who seem to be experiencing depression see a doctor in order to treat their potentially devastating condition.

Furthermore, it was noted that many people who are hospitalized for severe depression don’t see a doctor for follow-up care within 30 days of being discharged. Also, many of them seem to go to hospital emergency departments for care. It was estimated that approximately half a million Ontarians, aged 15 and older suffer from depression. Additionally, an estimated 154 million people across the world seem to be badly affected by the condition. Depression is believed to be responsible for lost productivity, higher disability claims and increased use of health-care services.

“As a leading cause of disease-related disability among women and men, depression puts a tremendous emotional and financial burden on people, their families and our health-care system,” says Dr. Arlene Bierman, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and chief author of the study Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report (POWER).

Dr. Bierman, a researcher at ICES further stated that, “Many Ontarians with depression are not treated for their condition and those who are often receive less than desired care. While there is a lot that is known about how to improve depression, we need to apply this to our work with patients if we want to improve the diagnosis and management of depression.

“This involves better co-ordination among primary care and mental health-care professionals in both community and hospital settings,” continues Bierman.

The findings of the POWER study revealed that less than 50% of men and women with depression seem to have visited a doctor for treating their condition. Also, nearly 33% of men and women who were discharged from hospital for severe depression failed to see a doctor for a follow-up visit within 30 days.

Moreover, 17% of the population appears to have visited a hospital emergency room within 30 days of discharge from hospital whereas about 8% were readmitted to hospital. It was believed that many older adults who began antidepressant medicines were refrained from the recommended number of follow-up visits in order to manage their condition. Additionally, the lack of co-ordinated care for patients may perhaps suggest the need for a collaborative care-model involving a team of health-care professionals. Apparently, this team would include mental health professionals and primary care providers.

“Research shows that patients cared for using a collaborative model are more likely to see improvement in symptoms, are able to better manage their depression and avoid multiple visits for emergency care,” says Dr. Elizabeth Lin, lead author of the chapter and a research scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

“The findings clearly support the need to re-evaluate the treatment of depression in Ontario. We need to provide better access and delivery of more appropriate and effective courses of care. The POWER Study makes a strong case for the adoption of collaborative care models — a key finding that can help inform system planning, program planning and policy development.” says Pat Campbell, CEO, Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario.

This is the foremost study in the province to have provided a complete overview of women’s health in relation to gender, income, education, ethnicity and geography.

The findings suggest the need for a comprehensive care model involving a multidisciplinary team to assist women and men and manage depression in a better way thereby improving their quality of life. Supposedly, this team includes health-care professionals, such as family doctors and mental health specialists.