The effect of psychotherapy is smaller for children and adolescents with depression than for adults

The effects of psychotherapy are smaller for children and adolescents with depression complaints than for adults.

03/18/2020 | 3:25 PM

The effects of the treatment method are slightly greater for young adults, but there are no clear differences in the effect of treatments between middle-aged and elderly adults. These are the results of research an international group of scientists led by professor Pim Cuijpers (clinical psychology) at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). The study is published today on the website of the scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry.

40 years of research
In the past 40 years, research has been conducted about the effect of psychotherapies on children and adolescents, and on adults and older adults. This is special because hardly any research has been done in Europe and almost all of the research comes from the United States (US), while the research among adults and the elderly is equally divided between Europe and the US. VU professor Pim Cuijpers: “By combining our databases and methods, we can investigate the effects of psychotherapies on depression over the course of life and investigate possible differences in effects. In this way, it can also be examined whether psychotherapies for depression have similar effects throughout the course of live. We see that therapies among young people are most likely to be less effective and clear improvements are needed in psychotherapies in children and adolescents.”

Age and therapy effect
For several reasons it is important to study the effects of therapies in different age groups. Cuijpers: “The differences that we have found between the age groups are important to inform practitioners in the field about the potential of treatments in different age groups. Our results can provide guidance in selecting the right treatment.”

Future research
Depressions in children and adolescents often develop for the first time during this period and proper treatment can prevent a chronic course. Therefore, urgent research is needed into improved treatment methods, also because medication has small effects and is generally not recommended due to a possible increased risk of suicide. It is also not clear why there is hardly any research in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe into the treatment of depression. That must change urgently.