ABOUT   |   CONTACT   |   Sign In
Stress, Alcohol & Depression Clinical Reference For Nurses
Share |

A Resource from the American College of Preventive Medicine

The following Clinical Reference Document provides the evidence to support the Stress, Alcohol and Depression Time Tool. The following bookmarks are available to move around the Clinical Reference Document. You may also download a printable version for future reference.


1. Description/Definitions

12. Description/Definitions

24. Description/Definitions

2. Prevalence and Trends

13. Prevalence and Trends

25.Prevalence and terms

3. Etiology

14. Role of Primary Care26. Etiology

4. Impact on Health

15. Impact on Health27. Role of Primary Care

5. Relation to Alcohol

16. Relation to Stress28. Impact on Health

6. Current Practice Patterns

17. Relation to Depression29. Current Practice Patterns

7. Managing Stress

18. Current Practice Patterns30. Screening and Diagnosis

8. Guidelines

19. Guidelines31. Managing Depression

9. Clinical Approach

20. Managing Excessive Use32. Enhancing Primary Care

10. Resources

21. Challenges33. Challenges

11. References

22. Resources34. Clinical Approach
23. References35. Resources
36. References


Stress is not a diagnosis, disease, or syndrome. It is a nonspecific set of emotions or physical symptoms that an individual experiences in response to forces, called stressors, which disrupt equilibrium or produce strain. [1,2]
  • In terms of health, stressors may be any life event or circumstance that exerts a physical, emotional, or cognitive demand on the individual.
  • Stress may or may not be associated with a disease or syndrome.
  • Not all stress is bad; it is generally believed that we need a certain amount of stress.
  • But when it occurs in quantities greater than the individual’s capacity to handle, pathological changes can occur.

Another suggested operational definition of stress is "anything that induces increased secretion of glucocorticoids", since that is what causes the responses to stress. [3]

Chronic stress has been defined as "a pathological state of prolonged threat to homeostasis by persistent or frequently repeated stressors … considered a significant contributing factor in the pathophysiology of a wide range of diseases and syndromes.” [4]

Stress depends not on what happens to an individual, but upon the way the individual reacts to what he or she experiences. [5]

  • As such, it should be more correctly described as ‘distress’, ‘the stressed state’, a ‘stress reaction’ or ‘strain’. [6]
  • Eustress is the good stress – a feeling of euphoria that accompanies the optimal level of stimulation.

The lifetime prevalence of major stressful life events is 100%, so associated stress-related symptoms may be considered a normal condition of human existence. [1]

Americans routinely experience unhealthy levels of stress.

  • 8 in 10 U.S. adults (80%) say they have problems with stress in their lives. [7]
7 of 10 U.S. adults experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes at least moderately with their lives. [8,9]
  • About 1 in 3 report persistent stress or excessive anxiety daily. [8]
  • One-third report experiencing extreme levels of stress (32 percent) regularly, and nearly one in five (17 percent) report experiencing extreme stress 15 or more days per month. [9]
Nearly half (48%) report that that stress interferes with their activities every day (up from 39% in 2005). [8]
  • Women are much more affected than men (56% vs. 39%).
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 (72%) say it interferes at least moderately with their lives (up from 67% in 2005.
Overlap with anxiety:
There is some overlap between an individual's perception of stress and anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are commonly seen in primary care and are frequently co-morbid conditions with major depression or other psychiatric disorders. [8a]
  • In primary care, 1 in 5 patients were found to have at least 1 anxiety disorder (1 in 12 with posttraumatic stress disorder, 1 in 13 with generalized anxiety disorder, 1 in 15 with panic disorder, and 1 in 16 with a social anxiety disorder. [8a]
  • Anxiety is often undetected and undertreated – 2 in 5 patients with anxiety disorders not treated.
For 6 in 10 (60%) life has become more stressful over the past year. [7]
  • Nearly half (48 percent) believe that their stress has increased over the past five years. [9]
Sources of Stress:
  • Work (74%) and money (73%) are on the rise as stressors (compared with 59% for each in 2006). [9]
  • Work is the top source of stress for adults - (39%), moreso for men (48%) than women (32%). [7]
Getting help:
Nearly 8 in 10 adults (78%) feel unprepared to manage stress. [10]
  • Only 7% have sought help to manage their stress during the past year. [9]

The adaptive response to stress (the general adaptation syndrome, or fight or flight response) is well documented. It is our emergency response system that maintains our body's relatively steady internal state, or homeostasis, and prepares us to meet challenges. [11]
  • The delicate balance of biochemical and physiological function is constantly challenged by a wide variety of stressors, including illness, injury, and exposure to extreme temperatures; by psychological factors, such as depression and fear; and by sexual activity and some forms of novelty-seeking.
  • In response to stress, or even perceived stress, the body mobilizes an extensive array of physiological and behavioral changes in a process of continual adaptation, with the goal of maintaining homeostasis and coping with the stress.
  • It is a highly complex, integrated network involving the central nervous system, the adrenal system, and the cardiovascular system that allows the body to redirect oxygen and nutrients to the stressed body site, where they are needed most.
Psychosocial stress leads to a release of cortisol. [11a]
  • This response helps maintain physiological as well as psychological equilibrium under stress, but exaggerated or long standing elevations of cortisol have been shown to have negative effects on physical health and cognitive functioning.
Stress is usually thought of as harmful; but when the stress response is acute and transient, homeostasis returns, and no adverse effects result. [11,12]
  • But when the acute changes become chronic, the body does not return to homeostasis.
  • The chemical and hormonal changes do not fully return to the normal unstressed state and continue to exert effects on the physiological and psychological state.
  • This affects autonomic and hormonal homeostasis, resulting in metabolic abnormalities, inflammation, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction.
  • Damage may occur, including immune system dysfunction, cell damage and accelerating a number of chronic disease processes.
Whether or not stress contributes to a disease or syndrome depends on the vulnerability of the individual; the intensity, duration, and meaning of the stress; and the nature and availability of modifying resources. [1]
  • Stress becomes distress if the individual’s capacity is overwhelmed OR if the individual even feels this to be the case.
  • Thus the key is the perception of a loss of control; in many people, stress is the result of an inaccurate perception of stress. [6]

There are clearly people who are more resistant to stress. Genes likely play a role. [13]

  • The diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) increases vulnerability to stress. It appears to exist in about 10% of the population, but in 60% of those suffering from major depression.

Characteristics of people who are more resilient when it comes to handling stress include: [14]

  • Feeling in control rather than powerless,
  • The ability to see issues as a challenge rather than a threat.

The effect of stress on health becomes greater with increasing age due to the exaggerated response, the reduced capacity, and the extent of development of chronic disease. [15]
  • Aging is associated with an increase in the cortisol response to a challenge. This effect is almost three-fold stronger in women than men. [15]
  • An increased cortisol response to challenge is associated with a variety of age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and hypertension.
Effect on health and well being:
One in five adults aged 45 and older are suffering health problems due to financial stress, according to a survey by the American Association of Retired People (AARP). [16]
  • Nearly half report that stress has a negative impact on their emotional well-being (49 percent) and physical health (46 percent). [9]
Half of all Americans report that stress has a negative impact on both their personal and professional lives, and
  • Negative impact on relationship with spouse or partner (45%) and satisfaction with job (46%). [9]
Effect on symptoms:
People were asked to report the symptoms they experienced during the last month before they were surveyed: [9]
  • Three-quarters (77%) experienced one or more physical symptoms as a result of stress, including fatigue (51%), headache (44%), upset stomach (34%), muscle tension (30%), change in appetite (23%), teeth grinding (17%), change in sex drive (15%), and feeling dizzy (13%).
  • Nearly as many (73%) experienced psychological symptoms including irritability or anger (50%), feeling nervous (45%), lack of energy (45%), and feeling as though you could cry (36%).
  • Half (48%) of adults experienced sleeping problems because of stress.

Another study found that 3 out of 4 people reported that stress interferes with their sleeping. [8]

Effect on health behaviors: [9]
Stress is often associated with self-destructive behavior and medication noncompliance.

  • Two-thirds of smokers report that they smoke more when they are stressed.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) people who drink report that they drank too much because of stress.
  • Half of adults (48 percent) lay awake at night during the last month because of stress.
  • Nearly half (43%) overate or ate unhealthy foods because of stress.
  • Chronic stress over an extended period can lead to a sense of loss of control that can lead to depression. This has been described as learned helplessness. [17]
Other Psychiatric Disorders:
Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:
  • Both acute and chronic traumatic events (abuse, combat, injury, etc) in vulnerable individuals can result in an Acute Stress Reaction following the trauma which can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder characterized by symptoms such as re-experiencing of the trauma (flashbacks and nightmares), avoidance behavior, hypervigilance and emotional numbing. [17a]
Cardiovascular System:
The INTERHEART study reported that psychosocial stress accounted for approximately 30% of the attributable risk of acute myocardial infarction. [18]
  • Prospective studies consistently indicate that hostility, depression, and anxiety are all related to increased risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular death.
  • A sense of hopelessness, in particular, appears to be strongly correlated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes
Although stressors trigger events, it is less clear that stress "causes" the events.
  • There is overwhelming evidence both for the deleterious effects of stress on the heart and for the fact that vulnerability and resilience factors play a role in amplifying or dampening those effects. [19,20]
The "Men Born in 1914” Study showed that men who chronically fail to find successful strategies to control their response in stressful situations are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress and at an increased risk of:
  • a future stroke in those with hypertension, [21]
  • death following a myocardial infarction, [22]
  • myocardial infarction and overall mortality in the presence of ventricular arrhythmias [23] or atherosclerosis. [24]
It has been long known that cardiac events can be triggered by external activities that trigger the sympathetic nervous system. [25]
  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure lead to increased myocardial oxygen demand and plaque disruption. [25]
  • The Multicenter Investigation of the Limitation on Infarct Size (MILIS) showed that half of acute MIs were associated with one or more triggers, most commonly emotional upset. [26]
  • A 40% increase in mortality rate, largely from cardiovascular causes, was found in widowers in the first 6 months following their spouse’s death. [25]
Immune System:
The etiology of autoimmune diseases is multi-factorial, yet at least 50% of autoimmune disorders have been attributed to "unknown trigger factors". [27]
  • Physical and psychological stress has been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease, since numerous animal and human studies have demonstrated the effect of stressors on immune function.
  • Unfortunately, not only does stress cause disease, but the disease itself also causes significant stress in the patients, creating a vicious cycle.
  • It is presumed that stress-triggered neuroendocrine hormones lead to immune dysregulation, which ultimately results in autoimmune disease by altering or amplifying cytokine production.
  • The treatment of autoimmune disease should thus include stress management and behavioral intervention to prevent stress-related immune imbalance.
Weight Gain:
A high level of stress is a predictor of major weight gain; and this effect was consistent in some groups even over 15 years. Low levels of life satisfaction and high scores for neuroticism, were predictors of weight gain in older women. [28]


Drinking alcohol induces the stress response, that is, some of the body's responses to alcohol are similar to its responses to other stressors. [29]
  • Yet, individuals often drink to relieve stress.
  • Stress responses are not exclusively unpleasant; the arousal associated with stress itself may be rewarding.
  • The initial response to alcohol is variable. Some studies have reported that acute exposure to low doses of alcohol actually reduces the response to a stressor while, in others, it induces the stress response. [30]
  • But, one thing is certain – intoxication causes a stress response in the body.
Stress does not lead individuals to drink more often, but rather to drink larger quantities when they do consume alcohol. [31]
  • Data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) showed a consistent positive relationship between number of past-year stressors experienced and all measures of heavy drinking.
  • Frequency of heavy (5+ drinks for men; 4+ drinks for women) drinking increased by 24% with each additional stressor reported by men and by 13% with each additional stressor reported by women.
  • In contrast, the frequency of moderate drinking decreased as stress levels increased.
  • Job-related and legal stressors were more strongly associated with alcohol consumption than were social and health-related stressors.
  • Men showed a stronger association than women between the number of stressors and consumption of alcohol. Having an income below the poverty level intensified the effects of job-related stress.
  • Treatment and brief interventions aimed at problem drinkers might benefit from addressing the issue of tension alleviation and the development of alternative coping mechanisms.
Individuals experiencing a higher frequency and perceived severity of job stressors have been shown to be more likely to drink and to be heavy drinkers. [32]
  • A direct relation has been observed between work-related stressors and elevated alcohol consumption and problem drinking. [33]
People under stressful conditions are more likely to either abstain or drink heavily rather than to drink lightly or moderately. [34]
  • Some life events (being a victim of a crime, decrease in financial position, divorce) are positively associated with heavy drinking in men.
  • Chronic stressors, such as marital problems and job problems, are related to heavy drinking in both men and women.

Individuals exposed to stress are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs or undergo relapse. [35-37]

The Health and Retirement Study showed that changes in drinking behavior were related to several life events occurring over a 6-year period. [38]

  • A new health problem was associated with decreased drinking levels.
  • Retirement was associated with increased drinking.
  • Getting married or divorced was associated with both increases and decreases in drinking.
  • A history of problem drinking influenced the association between certain life events (e.g., divorce and retirement) and changes in drinking.
Older adults who experience stressful losses are significantly more likely to drink excessively. [39]
  • This is especially noteworthy in view of the lower tolerance to alcohol that comes with increasing age.
  • Supportive resources of family, friends, and church appear to have stress-buffering effects that reduce excessive-drinking in response to life crisis.
Whether an individual will drink in response to stress appears to depend on many factors, including genes, usual drinking behavior, expectations that alcohol will help reduce stress, intensity and type of stressors, sense of control over stressors, and availability of social support. [40-43]


There is very little documentation of the use of stress management counseling in primary care.
  • Even studies that specifically address physician counseling for lifestyle behaviors do not include stress management – typically include only inactivity, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. [45]
One survey of primary care providers that did address stress management found that: [46]
  • 42% received no instruction regarding stress and health outcomes during their medical/professional education.
  • 90% believed stress management was "very" or "somewhat" effective in improving health outcomes.
  • 45% "rarely" or "never" discussed stress management with their patients.
  • 76% lacked confidence in their ability to counsel patients about stress.

It is well established that counseling rates for lifestyle change are poor (typically less than 1 in 3 who could benefit from it). [45,47,48,48a]

Providers consistently report poor self efficacy regarding lifestyle change counseling; rate of counseling is significantly associated with extent of training in health behavior change counseling. [49]

  • It would be safe to assume that use, self efficacy and training would be even worse for stress management because there is less evidence of effective assessment and intervention.

Thus there are two factors to consider in any stressful situation: [6]
  • The external factor, or stressor, that causes the stress response in the individual, and
  • The internal factors, the reaction, within the individual that lead to the stress response.
A feeling of loss of control, whether real or perceived, differentiates stress from the distress that can lead to anxiety and depression. [6]
  • Restoring a feeling of perceived control is a primary goal of stress reduction.
  • This can be achieved by:
    • Removing the stressor (or the individual from the stressor),
    • Reducing the potency of the impact of the stressor on the individual, or
    • Changing the individual’s response to the stressor.
  • The strategy used is the "escape” (i.e., from the stressor)
How an individual interprets and responds to the environment determines responses to stress, influences health behaviors, contributes to the neuroendocrine and immune response, and may ultimately affect health outcomes. [44]
  • Health psychology interventions are designed to modulate the stress response and improve health behaviors by teaching individuals more adaptive methods of interpreting life challenges and more effective coping responses.
Identify the stressors or triggers; they are often multi-factorial.
  • Psychosocial, workplace, or socioeconomic issues can be explored with the patient to facilitate early identification of precipitating factors and appropriate interventions that may prevent delayed recovery or relapse.
  • An open, honest discussion of the underlying factors often results in an increase in the patient's insight and coping skills, which itself helps alleviate many stress-related symptoms.
Encourage patients to enhance their individual coping skills and to decrease or discontinue maladaptive coping mechanisms such as excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, or excessive food intake. [1]
  • Counsel patients to redirect their energy to regular aerobic exercise, relaxation techniques, and cognitive coping mechanisms.
Referring to mental health professionals
Patients with high levels of stress who have an anxiety disorder are probably better served by seeing a mental health professional than having their primary care physician practicing in an area where they do not have training/expertise.
  • The referral may be to a clinical psychologist, not just a psychiatrist.
Referral is also appropriate for other patients whose stress issues may demand more intensive counseling. Identifying stressors and counseling to enhance coping skills are beyond the scope of many primary care practices.
  • This work consumes time PCPs do not have and calls for skills they also do not have.
  • The best strategy is often to use a mental health professional, again either a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
Escaping stressors – managing the stress response
There are many options and strategies to use to ‘escape’ the stressor. [50]
  • No single method is always successful, or best for an individual.
  • A combination of approaches is generally most effective.
  • What works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else.
Lifestyle Changes:
A healthy lifestyle is an essential component of any stress reduction program. [50]
  • Stress reduction and resistance can be enhanced by regular exercise, a diet rich in a variety of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and by avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
Exercise is important for two important reasons: [50]
  • It serves as an effective distraction from stressful situations, and
  • It helps to blunt the harmful effects of stress, especially regarding the cardiovascular system
Many studies have demonstrated the positive psychological effects of regular aerobic exercise, including reduced perceived stress, reduced anxiety or depressive symptoms, and an increase in self-esteem.
  • The acute effect of exercise on stress and anxiety is well established; this supports the importance of regular exercise to manage the daily stress response. [51]
  • This is also why activity level has been shown to be more important for stress-buffering than fitness level; the positive effect on stress hormones is achieved with each session of exercise. [52]
  • Exercise induces a down-regulation of certain central serotonergic receptors, which play an important role in the pathogenesis of both anxiety and depression. [53]
  • It also prevents the stress-induced suppression of the immune system, and the balancing of brain chemicals. [54]
Advising patients regarding exercise for stress management: [50]
  • Find an activity that is convenient – that’s why walking is usually best to depend on.
  • Find another activity that they enjoy, and that may be a little more challenging.
  • Start small – even a 10-minute brisk walk is helpful.
  • Be regular -- better to do a little every day than more on the weekend only.
  • Plan activities and set some goals, with a reward for when they are achieved.
  • Try a yoga or Tai Chi class – both have been shown to be great for stress reduction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapies:
Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are among the most effective ways of reducing stress. [50]
  • A systematic review of the efficacy of CBT for a variety of anxiety disorders showed that it is an effective treatment for anxiety and acute stress disorders. [55]
  • Cognitive-behavioral stress management training has been shown to significantly reduce the cortisol response to an acute stressor in healthy subjects. [56,57]
A typical CBT approach includes: [50]
  • Identifying the sources of stress,
  • Assessing sources of stress – are they reasonable, how they fit personal goals, how much control the patient has over them.
  • Restructuring priorities – shift balance from stress producing to stress reducing activities.
  • Changing response to stress – learning how to express feelings, focusing on positives, letting go of negative thought patterns, maintaining a sense of humor
  • Exploring methods to manage and reduce stress
However, practitioners, even psychiatrists, typically receive little format training in CBT, and it is a therapy that requires training in the specific issue addressed (e.g., depression, stress) to be effective.
  • The general principles are useful, but if a patient requires formal CBT, a referral to a trained practitioner should be made.

Relaxation Techniques:
Includes deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, meditation, biofeedback and massage. [See Resources for instructions and information on a variety of techniques]

Relaxation Response:
Uses deep breathing to induce relaxation during exposure to acute stress.

  • Can greatly reduce the intensity of the stress response
A review of evidence regarding approaches for stress reduction showed that meditation was most effective -- associated with significant reductions in BP, as well as other CVD risk factors and clinical outcomes. [58]
  • BP changes from a systematic review were – 5 mmHg (meditation), - 2.3 mmHg (stress management training), - 1.9 mmHg (progressive muscle relaxation), - 0.8 mmHg (biofeedback).
Low intake of alcohol:
Several experimental studies have found that low to moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the immediate effects of stress in some people. [59]
  • However, alcohol used to reduce stress may not be a good idea for all people due to the possibility of it leading to misuse and addiction.
Alcohol intake has been shown to have a U-shaped relationship with psychological distress.
  • At moderate levels, work stress was reduced, but as alcohol intake increased, the effect of work strains was intensified. The results give some support to the positive effect of moderate alcohol consumption on stress reduction and mental health. [60]
Medications have a limited role. [1]
  • Anti-anxiety agents may be used for short periods of time (i.e., when overwhelming anxiety limits the patient's ability to work or effectively perform the activities of daily living), but continued use is not advised due to the possibility of misuse and risk of addiction.
  • Antidepressant medications may be prescribed if major depression is involved.

GUIDELINE: ACOEM -- Stress-related conditions [1]

Basic Principles and Major Recommendations:

  • Stress is a nonspecific set of emotions or physical symptoms that may or may not be associated with a disease or syndrome. Whether or not it contributes to a disease or syndrome depends on the vulnerability of the individual; the intensity, duration, and meaning of the stress and the nature and availability of modifying resources.
  • Focus initial assessment of patients with acute stress-related conditions on serious psychopathology, such as suicide risk, that require urgent specialty referral.
  • Should also include assessment for diagnosable conditions such as alcohol abuse/dependence and nicotine or other drug dependence with appropriate referral for specialty care.
  • Explore psychosocial, workplace, or socioeconomic issues to identify precipitating factors and appropriate interventions that may prevent delayed recovery or relapse.
  • Engage in an open, honest discussion of the underlying factors; this often results in an increase in the patient's insight and coping skills, which may alleviate some stress-related symptoms.
  • Limit use of anti-anxiety agents to short periods of time (i.e., periods when overwhelming anxiety limits the patient's ability to work or effectively perform the activities of daily living).
  • Antidepressant or antipsychotic medication may be prescribed for associated major depression or psychosis; this is best done in conjunction with specialty referral.
  • Encourage patients to enhance their coping skills and to reduce use of maladaptive coping mechanisms such as excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, or excessive food intake.
  • Counsel patients to redirect their energy to regular aerobic exercise, relaxation techniques, and cognitive coping mechanisms.
  • Refer to a mental health professional if symptoms become disabling or persist beyond three months.
The primary care MD should always be willing to seek the help of a psychologist or psychiatrist. In general, there is only benefit, and no harm, to be gained by doing so.




  • About perception of extent and impact of stress in life
  • Type of ongoing stressors and which can be removed/relieved
  • Effects of stress on health promoting behaviors (e.g., eating, activity)
  • Effects of stress on unhealthy behaviors (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, drugs)
  • Contribution to physical or mental disease (e.g., depression, hypertension, obesity)
  • Role of stress in physical and mental health
  • The importance of feeling in control when stress is encountered
  • The concept of "escape” when dealing with a stressor
  • Identify stressors
  • Evaluate current ‘escape’ strategies
  • Develop a more positive ‘escape’ strategy that fits preferences
  • Set process goals
  • Pros and cons of medication to get the process going
  • Review
  • Additional counseling with practice nurse to reinforce plan and provide educational materials
  • Other support
  • Refer if necessary (i.e., suspicions of substance abuse, suicidal ideation, major anxiety or depressive disorder, etc)
  • Follow-up visit to monitor progress
  • Three stages: Analyze, Change, Evaluate (ACE)
Analyze: Increase awareness of stressors
  • Analyze sources of stress; becoming aware of their impact on the individual
Change: ‘Escape’ the stressor
  • Change the stressor – if it can be identified, and the stress reaction reduced or eliminated if it was removed.
    • Reduce it, remove it, replace it, rethink it, or reframe it.
    • This option is often not available because the situations that cause stress are often difficult to change.
  • Change the stressee: Build immunity to the stressor if the stressor cannot be removed or if removing it would not reduce the reaction.
    • Most stress comes from the individual’s reaction to the stressor, thus changing the stressee is the most common need.
    • All methods of changing the individual response can be considered to involve some form of escape, and such escapes can be either maladaptive or adaptive.
    • Maladaptive approaches work only short-term; do not solve any chronic problems, and may lead to a worsening of the problem, but they are easier.
      • Include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and drugs
      • Also include medications, which are an adjunct to management, not a treatment approach in and of themselves
    • Adaptive approaches address the classic reactions that the body is prepared for: fight or flight
      • Can be either physical or mental
      • A physical approach may include removing oneself from the stressor -- quitting a stressful job, exercising, or taking a vacation
      • A mental approach involves removing the stressor from one’s mind -- meditation, prayer, reading
      • There are many choices. The best is what works for each person, based on personal preferences; often a combination of approaches is preferred.
Evaluate: The effects on physical and mental health
  • After a stress management plan has been developed, set stress reduction goals
  • Set a follow-up visit to measure changes in:
    • Perceived sense of control by interview,
    • Psychological/emotional changes by questionnaire, and
    • Homeostatic state by BP, blood glucose, and other biochemical measures.
  • If satisfactory progress is not made, assess obstacles and adjust the plan, set new goals.


Stress-related conditions. Elk Grove Village (IL): American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM); 2004. 27 p. [129 references]


Mayo Clinic Stress Assessment

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (for women)

Stress Less

Discovery Health Assessment

Stanford Health Promotion Resource Center has assessments, kits, booklets on stress as well as other healthy lifestyle factors – requires a $20/year membership

Stress Type Test
In: Egger G, Binns A & Rossner S. Lifestyle Medicine. Sydney: McGraw Hill, 2008, p 154.


Learning to use the Relaxation Response:

Instructions for a variety of techniques:


National Institute of Mental Health

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill

National Mental Health Association

The American Institute of Stress

American Institute for Cognitive Therapy

Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

The American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychological Society

The American Psychological Association

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Mental Health Net

Internet Mental Health

  1. Stress-related conditions. Elk Grove Village (IL): American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM); 2004.
  2. Tabor’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. Philadelphia: FA Davis Company, 1997.
  3. Heuser I, Lammers CH. Stress and the brain. Neurobiol Aging. 2003 May-Jun;24 Suppl 1:S69-82.
  4. Kyrou J, Chrousos GP, Tsigos C. Stress, visceral obesity and metabolic complications. Ann NY Acad Sci 2006; 1083: 77-110
  5. Selye H. The general adaptation syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol 1946; 6:177
  6. Egger G, Binns A, Rossner S. Lifestyle Medicine. Sydney: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2008.
  7. National Consumers League. Dealing With Stress. NCL Survey - Executive Summary
  8. 2007 Stress and Anxiety Disorders Study. http://www.adaa.org/stressOutWeek/study.asp
    8a. Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Williams JB, Monahan PO, Löwe B. Anxiety disorders in primary care: prevalence, impairment, comorbidity, and detection. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Mar 6;146(5):317-25.
  9. American Psychological Association. Stress in America, October 24, 2007
  10. Stress: How Are We Coping? A Survey Report by ACQYR, December 2006
  11. Tsigos, C., & Chrousos, G.P. The neuroendocrinology of the stress response. In: Hunt, W., & Zakhari, S., eds. Stress, Gender, and Alcohol-Seeking Behavior. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Research Monograph No. 29. Bethesda, MD: the Institute, 1995.
    11a. Hammerfald K, Eberle C, Grau M et al. Persistent effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in healthy subjects--a randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Apr;31(3):333-9.
  12. Eskay, R.L.; Chautard, T.; Torda, T.; & Hwang, D. The effects of alcohol on selected regulatory aspects of the stress axis. In: Zakhari, S., ed. Alcohol and the Endocrine System. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Research Monograph No. 23. Bethesda, MD: the Institute, 1993.
  13. Dolnak DR. Treating patients for comorbid depression, anxiety disorders and somatic illnesses. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2006; 106(Suppl): S9-S14
  14. Tugade MM, Frederickson BL, Barrett LF. Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. J Personality 2004; 72(6): 1161-90
  15. Otte C, Hart S, Neylan TC, Marmar CR, Yaffe K, Mohr DC. A meta-analysis of cortisol response to challenge in human aging: importance of gender. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005 Jan;30(1):80-91.
  16. Keenan TA, AARP Knowledge Management. Research Report: Impact of the Economy on Health Behaviors, November 2008. http://www.aarp.org/research/health/carefinancing/healthcosts_08.html
  17. Seligman M. Learned Helplessness. NY: Random House, 1972.
    17a. American Psychiatric Association. Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Am J Psychiatry 2004 Nov;161(11 Suppl):1-31
  18. Das S, O'Keefe JH. Behavioral cardiology: recognizing and addressing the profound impact of psychosocial stress on cardiovascular health. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2006 Mar;8(2):111-8.
  19. Dimsdale JE. Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Apr 1;51(13):1237-46.
  20. Rainforth MV, Schneider RH, Nidich SI et al. Stress reduction programs in patients with elevated blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2007 Dec;9(6):520-8.
  21. André-Petersson L, Engström G, Hagberg B, Janzon L, Steen G. Adaptive behavior in stressful situations and stroke incidence in hypertensive men: results from prospective cohort study "men born in 1914" in Malmö, Sweden. Stroke. 2001 Aug;32(8):1712-20.
  22. Andre-Petersson L, Hagberg B, Janzon L, Steen G. Adaptive behavior in stressful situations in relation to postinfarction mortality results from prospective cohort study "Men Born in 1914" in Malmo, Sweden. Int J Behav Med. 2003;10(1):79-92.
  23. André-Petersson L, Engström G, Hedblad B, Janzon L, Steen G, Tydén P. Prognostic significance of ventricular arrhythmia modified by ability to adapt to stressful situations. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2004 Feb;11(1):25-32.
  24. Andre-Petersson L, Hedblad B, Janzon L, Steen G. Asymptomatic atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction: risk modified by ability to adapt to stressful situations. Results from prospective cohort study "Men born in 1914", Malmo, Sweden. Med Sci Monit. 2004 Oct;10(10):CR549-56.
  25. Muller JE, Abela GS, Nesto RW, et al. Triggers, acute risk factors and vulnerable plaques: the lexicon of a new frontier . J Am Coll Cardiol. 1994; 23: 809. Abstract
  26. Tofler GH, Stone PH, Maclure M., et al. Analysis of possible triggers of acute myocardial infarction (the MILIS Study) . Am J Cardiol. 1990; 66: 22
  27. Stojanovich L, Marisavljevich D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease. Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13.
  28. Korkeila M, Kaprio J, Rissanen A, Koshenvuo M, Sorensen TI. Predictors of major weight gain in adult Finns: stress, life satisfaction and personality traits. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1998 Oct;22(10):949-57
  29. NIAAA. Alcohol and Stress. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism No. 32 PH 363,
    April 1996 http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa32.htm
  30. Waltman, C.; Blevins, Jr., L.S.; Boyd, G.; & Wand, G.S. The effects of mild ethanol intoxication on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in nonalcoholic men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 77(2):518-522, 1993.
  31. Dawson DA, Grant BF, Ruan WJ. The association between stress and drinking: modifying effects of gender and vulnerability. Alcohol Alcohol. 2005 Sep-Oct;40(5):453-60.
  32. Ragland DR, Greiner BA, Yen IH, Fisher JM. Occupational stress factors and alcohol-related behavior in urban transit operators. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2000 Jul;24(7):1011-9.
  33. Frone MR. Work stress and alcohol use. Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(4):284-91.
  34. José BS, van Oers HA, van de Mheen HD, Garretsen HF, Mackenbach JP. Stressors and alcohol consumption. Alcohol Alcohol. 2000 May-Jun;35(3):307-12.
  35. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Stress and Substance Abuse: A Special Report
  36. Dawes MA, Antelman SM, Vanyukov MM, Giancola P, Tarter RE, Susman EJ, Mezzich A, Clark DB: Developmental sources of variation in liability to adolescent substance use disorders. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2000; 61(1): 3-14.
  37. Sinha R, Fuse T, Aubin LR, O'Malley SS: Psychological stress, drug-related cues, and cocaine craving. Psychopharmacology 2000; 152:140-148.
  38. Perreira KM, Sloan FA. Life events and alcohol consumption among mature adults: a longitudinal analysis. J Stud Alcohol. 2001 Jul;62(4):501-8.
  39. Jennison KM. The impact of stressful life events and social support on drinking among older adults: a general population survey. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1992;35(2):99-123.
  40. Sadava, S.W., & Pak A.W. Stress-related problem drinking and alcohol problems: A longitudinal study and extension of Marlatt's model. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science 25(3):446-464, 1993.
  41. Volpicelli, J.R. Uncontrollable events and alcohol drinking. British Journal of Addiction 82(4): 381-392, 1987.
  42. Pohorecky, L.A. Stress and alcohol interaction: An update of human research. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 15(3):438-459, 1991.
  43. Jennison, K.M. The impact of stressful life events and social support on drinking among older adults: A general population survey. International Journal of Aging and Human Development 35(2):99-123, 1992.
  44. Lutgendorf SK, Costanzo ES. Psychoneuroimmunology and health psychology: an integrative model. Brain Behav Immun. 2003 Aug;17(4):225-32.
  45. Livaudais JC, Kaplan CP, Haas JS et al. Lifestyle behavior counseling for women patients among a sample of California physicians. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2005 Jul-Aug;14(6):485-95.
  46. Avey H, Matheny KB, Robbins A, Jacobson TA. Health care providers' training, perceptions, and practices regarding stress and health outcomes. J Natl Med Assoc. 2003 Sep;95(9):833, 836-45.
  47. Walsh JM, Swangard DM, Davis T, McPhee SJ. Exercise counseling by primary care physicians in the era of managed care. Am J Prev Med. 1999 May;16(4):307-13.
  48. Honda K. Factors underlying variation in receipt of physician advice on diet and exercise: applications of the behavioral model of health care utilization. Am J Health Promot. 2004 May-Jun;18(5):370-7. 48a. Nawaz H, Adams ML, Katz DL. Weight loss counseling by health care providers. Am J Public Health. 1999 May;89(5):764-7.
  49. Vickers KS, Kircher KJ, Smith MD, Petersen LR, Rasmussen NH. Health behavior counseling in primary care: provider-reported rate and confidence. Fam Med. 2007 Nov-Dec;39(10):730-5.
  50. Well Connected In Depth Reports. Stress. Report #31, Oct 16, 2007. www.well-connected.com
  51. Paluska SA, Schwenk TL. Physical activity and mental health: current concepts. Sports Med. 2000 Mar;29(3):167-80.
  52. Carmack CL, Boudreaux E, Amaral-Melendez M, Brantley PJ, de Moor C. Aerobic fitness and leisure physical activity as moderators of the stress-illness relation. Ann Behav Med. 1999 Summer;21(3):251-7.
  53. Broocks A. [Physical training in the treatment of psychological disorders] Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2005 Aug;48(8):914-21.
  54. Fleshner M. Physical activity and stress resistance: sympathetic nervous system adaptations prevent stress-induced immunosuppression. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2005 Jul;33(3):120-6.
  55. Hofmann SG, Smits JA. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult anxiety disorders: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Apr;69(4):621-32.
  56. Gaab J, Blättler N, Menzi T et al. Randomized controlled evaluation of the effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in healthy subjects. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Aug;28(6):767-79.
  57. Hammerfald K, Eberle C, Grau M et al. Persistent effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in healthy subjects--a randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Apr;31(3):333-9.
  58. Rainforth MV, Schneider RH, Nidich SI et al. Stress reduction programs in patients with elevated blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Curr Hypertens Rep. 2007 Dec;9(6):520-8.
  59. Nielsen NR, Truelsen T, Barefoot JC et al. Is the effect of alcohol on risk of stroke confined to highly stressed persons? Neuroepidemiology. 2005;25(3):105-13.
  60. Marchand A, Demers A, Durand P, Simard M. The moderating effect of alcohol intake on the relationship between work strains and psychological distress. J Stud Alcohol. 2003 May;64(3):419-27.


Leading health-related guidelines recommend "safe” levels of alcohol consumption for adults as no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for non-pregnant women. [1-4] The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [5,6] defines unsafe drinking as:

  • "Risky” or "hazardous” drinking -- more than 14 drinks per week or more than 4 drinks per occasion for men or more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks per occasion for women.
  • "Harmful” drinking includes those who are currently experiencing physical, social, or psychological harm from alcohol use but do not meet criteria for dependence.
  • Alcohol "misuse” includes "risky/hazardous” and "harmful” drinking that places individuals at risk for future problems.
Alcohol "dependence” includes drinkers who continue to use alcohol despite significant negative physical, psychological, and social consequences. [7]
  • They generally meet criteria for abuse or dependence as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition, and are candidates for specialty addiction treatment. [8]

"Binge” drinking has occurred when the blood alcohol concentration ≥ 0.08 gram percent. [9]

  • This corresponds to about 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours.

About 6 in 10 adults consume alcohol to some degree. [10-12]
  • Most who consume alcohol do so in moderation and without adverse consequences.
  • 1 in 5 men report binge drinking at least once a month (a slightly lower percentage of women). [10-12]
  • About 1 in 20 adults meet the criteria for being heavy drinkers (exceed the daily/weekly limits for health) [10,11]

Nearly 1 in every 3 adults exceeds the recommended maximum daily or weekly alcohol consumption. [13]

Overall, 1 in 5 adults >18 years had five or more alcoholic drinks in a single day at least once in the preceding year. [13]

  • For both men and women, the percentage decreased with age. Men were substantially more likely than women to have had five or more drinks in 1 day at least once in the preceding year.
  • The percentage of whites who reported five or more alcoholic drinks in 1 day at least once during the preceding year, at 24.3%, was more than twice the percentage of blacks (12.0%) and significantly higher than Hispanics or Latinos (16.5%)
  • Another 1 in 10 adults exceeded the weekly (but not the daily) limits. [14]

Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) show that:

Percentage of adults who reported any current drinking, BRFSS, 2006: [10]

Overall: 55%
Men: 61%
Women: 48%

Percentage of adults who reported heavy drinking, BRFSS, 2006: [15]
(an average of > 2 drinks per day for men, or > 1 drink per day for women during the past month)

Overall: 5%
Men: 6%
Women: 4%

Percentage of adults who reported binge drinking, BRFSS, 2006: [16]
(5 or more drinks on at least one occasion during the past month)

Overall: 16%
Men: 21%
Women: 10%

A Gallup Poll showed that 62% of adults drink alcohol to some degree (2008). [12] Percent distribution of current drinking status, drinking levels, and heavy drinking days by sex for persons 18 years of age and older: United Status, National Health Information Survey (NHIS, 2006). [11]

Abstainers: Overall: 25% (Men: 18%, Women: 32%)
Former Drinker: Overall: 14% (Men: 15%, Women: 14%)
Current Drinker:Overall: 61% (Men: 68%, Women: 54.5%)
Light Drinker: Overall: 41% (Men: 40%, Women: 43%)
Moderate Drinker: Overall: 14.5% (Men: 22%, Women: 7.5%)
Heavy Drinker: Overall: 5%(Men: 5.5%, Women: 4.6%)

Percent reporting alcohol use in the past year by age group and demographic characteristics: NSDUH (NHSDA), 1994–2002. [17]

35+: 66%
18-34 yrs: 78%

The BRFSS of adults aged 18+ showed that between 1993 and 2001, the total number of binge-drinking episodes increased from approximately 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion; episodes per person per year increased by 17% (from 6.3 to 7.4). [18]

  • Between 1995 and 2001, binge-drinking episodes per person per year increased by 35%.
  • Men accounted for 81% of binge-drinking episodes.
  • Overall, 47% of binge-drinking episodes occurred among otherwise moderate (ie, non-heavy) drinkers, and 73% of all binge drinkers were moderate drinkers.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and others encourage physicians to identify patients with alcohol-related risks or problems and to provide office-based brief interventions or referrals as needed. [20,21]

  • In everyday practice, screening procedures using a standardized instrument (such as the AUDIT-C) are necessary to identify the range of alcohol users in order to offer appropriate treatment. [22,23,23a]

Early identification of alcohol-related problems is important because these problems are prevalent, pose serious health risks to patients and their families, and are amenable to intervention. [24]

  • Early intervention can lower morbidity and prevent progressive damage to family and social relationships.

Primary care physicians are encouraged by the NIAAA to screen patients not only for alcohol abuse and dependence, but also for alcohol consumption that would place them at risk for current or future adverse health events. [1,6]

  • The rationale is that primary care physicians can play an instrumental role in recognizing alcohol problems, initiating therapy, providing advice for further treatment options, monitoring response to therapy, and promoting relapse prevention. [25,26]

Primary care physicians provide routine care for a large number of patients with alcohol problems; prevalence rates range from 2% to 29%, depending on the type of disorder, in ambulatory patients. [27-29]

  • Across multiple primary care populations, 4% to 29% are risky drinkers, 0.3% to 10% are harmful drinkers, and 2% to 9% exhibit alcohol dependence. [6]
  • Prevalence of alcohol misuse is generally higher in males and younger persons of all races and ethnicities. [30]

About 8% to 18% of patients screen "positive," and would be candidates for brief interventions. [32-36]

  • About half of these would be eligible for primary care intervention after completing an assessment. [37]

A state of the science report from the NIAAA [38] on the effects of alcohol on health outcomes concludes that:

  1. Current scientific evidence continues to show that moderate levels of alcohol consumption do not increase risk for heart failure/ myocardial infarction or ischemic stroke, and in fact provide some protective effects along a J-shaped curve.
    • The lowest total all-cause mortality occurs at the level of 1 - 2 drinks per day.
    • There is some evidence for reduced risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
  2. BUT the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and disease outcome is confounded and modified by individual factors – age, gender, genetic susceptibility, metabolic rate, co-morbid conditions, lifestyle factors, and patterns of consumption.
    • Protective levels of consumption cannot be generalized across the population, but instead should be determined for each patient individually.
    • The potential for moderate alcohol consumption to reduce risk for one disease may be outweighed by its potential to increase risk for another disease, depending on family history, medical history, genetic makeup, and lifestyle.
  3. The risk for breast cancer increases with any alcohol consumption.
    • Appears to be a 10% increase in risk for women averaging 1 drink per day, higher with a family history of breast cancer or on hormone replacement therapy.
  4. There is no question that excessive consumption during pregnancy can produce a range of behavioral and psychosocial problems, malformations, and mental retardation in the offspring.
  5. The current scientific knowledge on the risks and benefits related to alcohol consumption suggests that a moderate consumption of 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women is unlikely to increase health risks.
    • BUT as consumption rises above this level, risks for some conditions and diseases (including alcohol misuse/abuse/dependence) increases in direct relation to the increase in consumption.

Excessive alcohol can be addictive, and high intake can be associated with serious adverse health and social consequences, including hypertriglyceridemia, hypertension, liver damage, physical abuse, vehicular and work accidents, and increased risk of breast cancer. [4]

Men averaging at least 4 drinks per day and women averaging 2 or more drinks per day have been shown to have significantly increased mortality relative to nondrinkers. [39]

Cardiovascular disease
In contrast to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with light to moderate alcohol consumption, heavy alcohol intake and binge drinking are associated with increased cardiovascular mortality. [40]

  • Alcohol has an acute and profound effect on fibrinolysis that may be relevant to the pathogenesis of CVD.
  • Drinking a large amount of alcohol results in an acute inhibition of fibrinolysis; may predispose to accelerated atherosclerosis and set the stage for thrombotic coronary events, explaining the higher cardiovascular mortality risk in binge drinkers.

Binge drinking is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events. [41]

  • Those events often happen within hours after alcohol is consumed. Apart from arrhythmias and changes in blood pressure, these events may be caused by an acute (i.e., occurring within a 24-h period) shift of the hemostatic balance in a thrombogenic direction.
  • The Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME) showed that a binge-drinking pattern led to fluctuations in blood pressure levels, whereas no such fluctuations in blood pressure levels are found for regular consumption. [42]

The increased CVD risk effect is observed in men, but not women (men: HR = 2.3, women, HR = 1.1). [43]

  • It increased the risk of hypertension in men (HR = 1.57) but not in women.

Psychiatric problems
The NESARC dataset, the largest and most ambitious co-morbidity study ever conducted, demonstrated the strong links between alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and a range of psychiatric problems—from pathological gambling and nicotine dependence to anxiety disorders and major depression. [44]

  • Taken together, the findings from these papers highlight the high prevalence and diversity of co-morbidity and underscore the need for clinicians to diagnose and treat co-morbid conditions as well as AUDs.

Kidney disease
Clinical and experimental studies have demonstrated that the habitual consumption of large amounts of ethanol has deleterious effects on the kidney. [45]

  • A variety of tubular defects have been described in patients with chronic alcoholism.
  • These renal abnormalities are often reversible, disappearing with abstinence.

Liver disease Alcohol exerts some harmful effects through its breakdown (i.e., metabolism) and the resulting toxic compounds, particularly in the liver, where most alcohol metabolism occurs.

  • The incidence of liver disease has been strongly increased among high risk drinkers (OR=2.78-4.76). [46]

Studies also relate heavy per-occasion alcohol use ("binge drinking") to acute injury risks and alcohol-related life problems. [47,48]

  • Injury rates are higher for infrequent binge drinkers, even when average intake is not excessive. [48]

The effect of alcohol on the stress response is a function of amount.

  • The body responds to stress through a hormone system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Stimulation of this system results in the secretion of stress hormones (i.e., glucocorticoids).
  • Intoxication results in greater activation of the HPA axis and results in elevated glucocorticoid levels. [49]
  • This supports the greater harm associated with larger amounts of alcohol in a single occasion.

In addition, in heavy drinkers, the stress response is not turned off as effectively as in light drinker and non-drinkers. [50]

  • Data from the 2002-2004 phase of the Whitehall II study of British civil servants showed that, in men, there was a 3% increase in cortisol per unit of alcohol consumed each week.
  • The slope of the cortisol decline during the day in heavy drinkers was reduced, indicating less control of the HPA axis in heavy drinkers, that is, the stress response was not turned off as effectively.

Data from the BRFSS shows that frequent binge drinking is associated with significantly worse health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and mental distress, including stress, depression, and emotional problems. [51]

  • Other studies have reported that individuals exposed to stress are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs or undergo relapse. [52-54]

The 2006 BRFSS found that those who drank alcohol "heavily” (> 2 drinks per day for men, or > 1 drink per day for women during the past month) were significantly more likely than those who did not to have current depressive symptoms. [55]

The prevalence of 12-month mood and anxiety disorders in the US population was 9% and 11%, respectively, while the rate of substance use disorders was 9%. [56]

  • Associations between most substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders were overwhelmingly positive and significant.

NIAAA data show that the prevalence of depression increases with alcohol consumption, from 1 in 17 of moderate drinkers to 1 in 11 heavy drinkers to 1 in 5 with alcohol dependence.

Presence of major depression in those who drink alcohol:

Lifetime abstainer4.4%a
Former drinker7.9%a
Current drinker7.6%a
Light drinker7.9%b
Moderate drinker5.9%b
Heavy drinker9%b
Exceeded daily drinking limits only9.2%c
Exceeded daily and weekly drinking limits9%c
Alcohol abuse8.2%d
Alcohol dependence20.5%d

a. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/

b. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/

c. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/

d. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/

For most race/ethnic subgroups, alcohol dependence, but not abuse, is significantly associated with mood disorders. [57]

  • Prior alcohol dependence increases the risk of current major depressive disorder by more than 4-fold. [58]

Depression is primarily related to drinking larger quantities per occasion (binge drinking), less related to volume, and unrelated to drinking frequency, and this effect is stronger for women than for men. [59,60]

  • The overall relationship between depression and alcohol consumption is stronger for women than for men, but only for major depression and not when measured as recent depressed affect.

Women’s partner’s alcohol habits
The 2001-2002 NESARC showed that women whose partners had alcohol problems were more likely to experience mood disorders than women whose partners did not have alcohol problems. [61]

  • They also experienced more life stressors and had lower mental/psychological quality-of-life scores.

Blacks less likely to be treated for coexisting depression
The 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) showed that, compared to whites, blacks with co-occurring mood or anxiety and substance use disorders were significantly less likely to receive services for mood or anxiety disorders, equally likely to receive services for alcohol use disorders, and more likely to receive some types of services for drug use disorders. [62]


Although health care settings offer an ideal opportunity for identifying people who are currently experiencing or are at risk for problems with alcohol, clinicians screen fewer than half of their patients for alcohol use disorders. [63,64]

Data from observational field notes on actual health care maintenance visits, medical record reviews, and in-depth interviews for 95 visits of adult females to 47 different clinicians at 18 Midwestern urban, suburban, and rural family practices showed that alcohol use screening occurred in less than one-third of visits. [65]

Despite evidence that brief interventions are useful in the primary care setting, these short counseling sessions are not routine practice.

  • One survey of primary care physicians found that most (88%) reported asking their patients about alcohol use. [66]
  • Nearly half inquired about maximum amounts on an occasion, but just over 1 in 10 use formal alcohol screening tools.
  • Others have reported similar findings – few primary care clinicians using recommended screening protocols or offering counseling to address risky/harmful alcohol users. [67]

A survey of primary care patients revealed that over half said their primary care physician did nothing about their substance abuse; 43% said their physician never diagnosed their problem. [68]

Factors contributing to under-diagnosis include depression, dementia, physical changes associated with age, life events, late onset of alcoholism and lack of screening. [69]

  • One analysis found that more than 30% of depressed women and men visiting primary care doctors had drug or alcohol problems. Yet only 8%, mostly men, had been counseled about drug or alcohol use during their most recent primary care visit.
  • Men were three times as likely to have been counseled as women about these problems (15.6 vs. 4.5 percent). [70]
  • Some providers report finding it difficult to confront patients who drink excessively. [71]

Treatment is also inadequate
Fewer than 1 in 4 of those with alcohol dependence are ever treated, slightly less than the rate found 10 years earlier. [72]


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)Recommendations
The USPSTF recommends that primary care physicians screen patients for problem drinking and intervene to reduce these patients' intake of alcohol. There is good evidence of benefit in this approach and little evidence of harm. [5]
  • Brief multi-contact interventions offer the best means of counseling patients with problem drinking. [5]
Screening Options:
The USPSTF identifies three options for screening in primary care:
  • The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT):
    • The most valid screening tool for detecting alcohol-related problems in primary care
    • Sensitive for detecting alcohol misuse; can be used alone or with broader health risk or lifestyle assessments [73,74]
    • The shorter 3-question AUDIT-C has been validated and might be preferable as an initial screen. http://www.cqaimh.org/pdf/tool_auditc.pdf
      • How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
      • How many standard drinks do you have on a typical day?
      • How often do you have 6 or more drinks on one occasion?
  • The 4-item CAGE (feeling the need to Cut down, Annoyed by criticism, Guilty about drinking, and need for an Eye-opener in the morning):
    • The most popular screening test for detecting alcohol abuse or dependence in primary care [75]
    • However, this test is NOT sensitive for identifying alcohol misuse. [75a]
  • The TWEAK and the T-ACE:
    • For screening pregnant women for alcohol misuse [76]
The NIAAA-recommended approach is a 2-step process to use in a brief office visit: [90]
  • Step 1: All patients identified as alcohol drinkers are asked about usual quantity and frequency of drinking, maximum drinks per occasion in the past month.
  • Step 2: If they exceed the safe limits on any occasion, they are asked the 4 CAGE screening questions:
    • Desire to Cut down on drinking,
    • Anyone Annoy you by criticizing your drinking,
    • Ever feel Guilty about your drinking, and
    • Ever have an "Eye-opener" drink upon arising in the morning).
  • The second step is a confirmatory assessment that addresses abuse/dependence and considers specific alcohol problems.
Choose screening strategies that fit your clinical population and setting. [74,77-80]
  • The optimal interval for screening and intervention is unknown.
  • Patients with past alcohol problems, young adults, and other high-risk groups (e.g., smokers) may benefit from more frequent screening.
The method of administering the screening is important too.
  • Many clinics have a nurse administer the screen. This may be cost effective, but it may adversely affect the yield because some patients fear the stigma of admitting to alcohol problems to a nurse.
  • In one study, when the AUDIT-C was administered face-to-face (usually by a nurse), the yield of alcohol misuse was about 23%, whereas when the AUDIT-C was administered to the same individuals via a mailed anonymous questionnaire, the yield was about 35%. [80a]
Positive screenings for abuse/dependence need to be followed by a diagnostic evaluation using DSM-IV criteria for abuse/dependence. [80b]
  • If the patient meets these criteria, the primary care provider should focus on facilitating the patient to at least consider specialized addiction assessment and treatment.
  • Positive AUDIT scores were not followed up with a diagnostic evaluation unless these were specifically required.
Criteria for Alcohol Abuse
A diagnosis of alcohol abuse requires that the patient meet one or more of the following criteria, occurring in the same 12-month period, and not meet the criteria for alcohol dependence. [80c]
  • Recurrent drinking in hazardous situations (driving, activities where drinking increased risk of accident/injury)
  • Continued use despite recurrent interpersonal or social problems (trouble with family/ friends, physical fights associated with drinking)
  • Failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home because of recurrent drinking
  • Recurrent legal problems related to alcohol (police or legal problems related to drinking)

For questionnaire, see: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/

Criteria for Alcohol Dependence
A diagnosis of alcohol dependence requires that the patient meet three or more of the following criteria in the same 12-month period. [80c]

  • Drinking more or longer than intended
  • Impaired control (more than once wanted to stop or cut down, or tried to stop or cut down but found you couldn’t)
  • Tolerance (drink much more than you once did to get the same effect, or usual number of drinks has much less effect than it once did)
  • Withdrawal syndrome or drinking to relieve withdrawal (symptoms following drinking -- trouble sleeping, shaking, nervous, nauseous, restless, sweating or heart beating fast, sensed things that aren’t really there, seizures) or drinking to get over aftereffects
  • Continued to drink despite recurrent psychological or physical problems (depression, anxiety, blackout, or worsening health problem)
  • Time spent related to drinking or recovering (lots of time spent drinking or getting over it)
  • Neglect of activities (given up or cut down on activities that were important or pleasurable to drink)
Interventions in primary care:
The USPSTF review of evidence [5] found that effective interventions to reduce alcohol misuse include:
  • An initial counseling session of about 15 minutes with advice, feedback, and goal-setting
  • Multi-contact interventions have been shown to reduce mean alcohol consumption by 3 to 9 drinks per week, with effects lasting at least 6 to 12 months after the intervention.
  • Further assistance and follow-up
  • Counseling and assistance by a team of physician and non-physician practitioners
The USPSTF recommends counseling interventions that use the 5-As behavioral counseling framework: [81]
  • Assess alcohol consumption with a brief screening tool followed by clinical assessment as needed;
  • Advise patients to reduce alcohol consumption to moderate levels;
  • Agree on individual goals for reducing alcohol use or abstinence (if indicated);
  • Assist patients with acquiring the motivation, self-help skills, and support needed for behavior change;
  • Arrange follow-up support and repeated counseling, including referring dependent drinkers for specialty treatment.
Practices that complement the 5A framework include:
  • motivational interviewing, [82]
  • the 5 Rs used to treat tobacco use, [83] and
  • assessing readiness to change. [84]

NIAAA: How To Help Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinical Approach http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/CliniciansGuide2005/

This guide provides two methods for screening:

  • A single question to use during a clinical interview (Step 1 below) OR
  • A written self-report instrument (the AUDIT, see Resources).

The single interview question can be used at any time, either in conjunction with the AUDIT or alone. Some practices prefer to have patients fill out the AUDIT before they see the clinician; takes less than 5 minutes and can be copied or incorporated into a health history.

Clinical indications for screening:

  • As part of a routine examination
  • Before prescribing a medication that interacts with alcohol
  • When seeing patients who
    • are pregnant or trying to conceive
    • are likely to drink heavily, such as smokers, adolescents, and young adults
    • have health problems that might be alcohol induced, such as:
      • cardiac arrhythmia
      • dyspepsia
      • liver disease
      • depression or anxiety
      • insomnia
      • trauma
    • have a chronic illness that isn't responding to treatment as expected, such as:
      • chronic pain
      • diabetes
      • gastrointestinal disorders
      • depression
      • heart disease
      • hypertension

Guidelines for a brief intervention:

Step 1: Ask about alcohol use (or review AUDIT form)

  • Do you sometimes drink beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages?
  • If YES, How many times in the past year have you had . . . 5 or more drinks in a day? (for men) OR 4 or more drinks in a day? (for women)
  • If 1 or more go to Step 2
  • If 0 counsel on daily and weekly alcohol limits for health; tailor to individual risk factors
Step 2: Assess for alcohol use disorders

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/ CliniciansGuide2005/
  • If positive, go to steps to assess for alcohol use disorder (abuse or dependence)
  • If negative, go to Step 3
Step 3: Advise and Assist in a Brief Intervention
  • State your conclusion and recommendation clearly:
    • "You are drinking more than is medically safe.” Relate to patient’s concerns and medical findings, if present.
    • "I strongly recommend that you cut down (or quit).”
  • Gauge readiness to change drinking habits: "Are you willing to consider making changes in your drinking?”
    • If YES:
      • Help set a goal: Cut down to within maximum limits or abstain for a period of time.
      • Agree on a plan, including
        • what specific steps the patient will take (e.g., not go to a bar after work, measure all drinks at home, alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages)
        • how drinking will be tracked (diary, kitchen calendar)
        • how the patient will manage high-risk situations
        • who might be willing to help, such as a spouse or nondrinking friends
      • Provide educational materials.
    • If NO:
      • Restate your concern about his or her health.
      • Encourage reflection: Ask patients to weigh what they like about drinking versus their reasons for cutting down. What are the major barriers to change?
      • Reaffirm your willingness to help when he or she is ready.
Step 4: Follow-Up Visit – Continue Support
  • Was patient able to meet and sustain the drinking goal?
    • If YES:
      • Reinforce continued adherence to recommendations.
      • Renegotiate drinking goals if indicated (e.g., medical conditions)
      • Encourage the patient to return if unable to maintain adherence.
      • Re-screen at least annually
    • If NO:
      • Acknowledge that change is difficult.
      • Support any positive change and address barriers.
      • Renegotiate the goal and plan; consider a trial of abstinence.
      • Consider engaging significant others.
      • Reassess the diagnosis if the patient is unable to either cut down or abstain

Evidence indicates that alcohol "misuse” can often be effectively managed in the primary care setting using brief intervention techniques including motivational interviewing, whereas more severe problems need specialty addiction treatment. [37]

The assumption underlying brief behavioral counseling interventions in primary care is that, for identified risky or harmful drinkers, reducing overall alcohol consumption or adopting safer drinking patterns (that is, fewer drinks per occasion and not drinking before driving) will reduce the risk for medical, social, and psychological problems. [85]

Brief interventions—or short, one-on-one counseling sessions—are ideally suited for people who drink in ways that are harmful or abusive, but do not have severe drinking problems. [91]

  • Unlike traditional alcoholism treatment that lasts many weeks or months, brief interventions can be given in minutes, and require minimal follow-up.
  • They typically consist of 1-4 short counseling sessions with a trained interventionist (e.g., physician, psychologist, social worker).
  • The goal is generally to reduce alcohol consumption to sensible levels and eliminate harmful drinking patterns (such as binge drinking).
The most basic level of brief intervention consists of a simple statement or two. [91]
  • The clinician states that he or she is concerned about the patient’s drinking, that it exceeds recommended limits and could lead to alcohol-related problems, and the clinician advises the patient to cut down or stop drinking.
It is important to clearly distinguish between alcohol misusers and those with diagnosable alcohol disorders.
  • Reducing alcohol consumption to "sensible levels” is not indicated for those with alcohol disorders.
  • Evidence clearly supports abstinence as the appropriate goal for these individuals.
  • Trials of harm reduction in the presence of abuse/dependence disorders has been associated with significant adverse outcomes.
Advantages of brief interventions
Many people avoid lengthy treatment for alcohol problems because they perceive it to be embarrassing, stigmatizing, and inconvenient, taking too much time away from work or family responsibilities. They are more likely to accept a brief intervention. [92]
  • Brief interventions provide a simple approach in a comfortable and familiar setting,
  • They are easily incorporated into a family practice, delivered by familiar people in a familiar setting.
  • They are a lower cost alternative to formal, specialist-led, alcoholism treatment.
  • Supplemental handouts may be provided to reinforce the strategies offered during the session.
  • Clinicians can follow up at a later date, either in person, through the mail, or by phone to provide additional assessment and further motivate the patient to achieve the goals set during the initial meeting.
  • If the brief intervention does not work, clinicians can always recommend more intensive treatment.
Motivational interviewing can help with reluctant patients
Brief interventions may include motivational interviewing to persuade people who are resistant to moderating their alcohol intake or who do not believe they are drinking in a harmful or hazardous way. [93]
  • It encourages patients to decide to change for themselves by using empathy and warmth rather than confrontation. Clinicians assist patients by helping them set specific goals and build skills for modifying their drinking behavior.
  • Motivational interviewing generally requires some training. If practitioners are not able/willing to get this training it might be best to develop an affiliation with providers who are trained.
Brief interventions are effective
  • A systematic review of 34 studies found that people who received brief interventions when they were being treated for other conditions consistently showed greater reductions in alcohol use than comparable groups who did not receive an intervention. [94]
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2004 found good evidence that brief behavioral counseling interventions with follow-up produce small to moderate reductions in alcohol consumption that are sustained over 6- to 12-month periods or longer. [5,95]
  • The intervention led to 10% to 19% more participants than controls achieving safe or recommended drinking levels.
  • They also reduced weekly drinking by 2.9 to 8.7 drinks per week more than in controls (13% to 34% net reductions), but had inconsistent effects on binge drinking.
  • Effective behavioral interventions consisted of an initial counseling session of 15 minutes, feedback, advice, goal-setting, assistance, and follow-up.
  • They work in a variety of populations—younger and older adults, men and women.
A meta-analysis reported an absolute risk reduction of 10.5% in harmful drinking -- a number needed to treat of 10 to achieve one transformed drinker. [96]
  • Another analysis concluded that brief interventions may reduce mortality rates among problem drinkers by an estimated 23-26%. [97]
Effective interventions generally include all of the following: advice, feedback, goal setting, and additional contacts for further assistance and support.
  • The elements in effective interventions were generally consistent with the 5 A's (assess, advise, agree, assist, arrange) approach to behavioral counseling interventions adopted by the USPSTF. [98]
All interventions that showed statistically significant improvements in alcohol outcomes of any intensity included at least 2 of 3 key elements: [98]
  • feedback
  • advice
  • goal-setting

Since most effective interventions were multi-contact ones, they also provided further assistance and follow-up. A few also reported tailoring intervention elements to each participant. [99-101] Very brief (5 min) or brief single-contact interventions were shown to be not effective in reducing risky/harmful alcohol use. [102]

Counseling Messages [5]
Brief counseling should follow the 5A model (a variation on tobacco intervention guideline):

  • Assess current and historical use of alcohol.
  • Advise patients to reduce use to moderate levels.
  • Agree on individual goals for reduction or abstinence.
  • Assist with motivation, skills, and supports.
  • Arrange follow-up support and repeated counseling, including referral if needed.
Other messages that may be of value include:
  • Advise all females of childbearing age of the harmful effects of alcohol on a fetus and the need for cessation during pregnancy.
  • Reinforce that patients should avoid drinking and driving.
  • Advise patients not to ride with someone under the influence of alcohol and to prevent him or her from driving.

Enhancing practice performance
A number of strategies have been suggested by the NIAAA [91] to help physicians improve their use of screening and brief interventions in their practices, including:

  • using group education strategies to hone clinicians’ skills with role-playing and other counseling tactics [103]
  • providing performance feedback [104]
  • offering training to all clinic members [105,106]
  • providing financial incentives to staff [107]
  • offering training using credible experts [108]

Resources identified by the USPSTF to help clinicians deliver effective interventions include:

  • brief provider training
  • access to specially trained primary care practitioners or health educators, and
  • the presence of office-level systems supports (prompts, reminders, counseling algorithms, and patient education materials). [5]

Better rates of screening and intervention have been associated with:

  • greater confidence in alcohol history taking
  • familiarity with guidelines
  • less concern that patients will object

Thus, efforts to improve physicians' screening and intervention for alcohol problems should address: [66]

  • building confidence in skills
  • becoming familiar with expert recommendations
  • overturning beliefs that patients object to their involvement

Use a Chronic Care Model
The Chronic Care Model (CCM), originally designed to improve care for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, is also applicable to a broad range of individuals with alcohol use disorders. [95]

  • The CCM is a heuristic model that offers an approach to increase the ability of PCPs to identify, treat and effectively manage AUDs.
  • While simple advice or very brief interventions may be more easily incorporated into routine care, the effectiveness of risky/harmful alcohol use interventions depends on multiple contacts over time.
  • Studies consistently show that additional staff and systems support are required to optimize screening and assessment services, and intervention support.

Set up the practice to simplify the process: [110]

  • Decide the type of screening to use (single question or survey form – AUDIT)
  • Decide who will conduct the screening (you, other clinical personnel, the receptionist who hands out the survey, or mailed out (this is a key issue that affects the honesty of the responses; may need to be adjusted with time)
  • Use preformatted progress notes
  • Use computer reminders (if using electronic medical records)
  • Keep copies of the pocket guide (provided) and referral information in your examination rooms
  • Monitor your performance through practice audits

Advanced in delivering brief interventions
Many of the obstacles involved in administering brief interventions—such as finding the time to administer them, obtaining the necessary training, and the cost of the interventions—can be reduced by developing technology.

  • Patients can use computer programs in the waiting room or at home, or access interventions over the Internet, which offers privacy and the ability to complete the program at any time of day. [111,112]
  • Another option is "video doctor technology,” in which an actor–doctor asks health questions in an interactive computer program. Pilot results of this program indicate that users are more comfortable consulting a doctor in person, but view the "virtual” doctor intervention positively. [113]


NIAAA POCKET GUIDE FOR Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention

Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much, A Clinician’s Guide, Updated 2005 Edition

Prescribing Medications for Alcohol Dependence

  • From: Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much



American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the treatment of patients with substance use disorders, Second edition. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 4(Suppl):1-124

USPSTF: Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: recommendation statement.

  • Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med 2004 Apr 6;140(7):554-6. PubMed


USPSTF: The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, 2008. Recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Pocket Guide.

  • Update on screening from the 2004 statement


Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Preventive services for adults. Problem Drinking Screening and Brief Counseling

  • Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Preventive services for adults. Bloomington (MN): Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI); 2007 Oct. 87 p. [172 references]



Screening tools are available at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Web site: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/instable.htm.

The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT)

The AUDIT-C (Brief assessment)

Assessment Questions for Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence

To differentiate at risk use from a alcohol use disorder: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/CliniciansGuide2005/


US Dept of HHS, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Knowledge Application Program – Keys for Clinicians

  • Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders


  • Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse



The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Alcohol: A Women’s Health Issue, from the NIAAA

What's a Standard Drink?
U.S. Adult Drinking Patterns
Strategies for Cutting Down
Online Materials for Clinicians and Patients
Frequently Asked Questions

About Alcohol Screening and Brief Interventions
About Drinking Levels and Advice
About Diagnosing and Helping Patients With Alcohol Use Disorders

  1. The physician's guide to helping patients with alcohol problems. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); 1995. NIH publication No. 95-3769.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s report on nutrition and
    health. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1988. (Publication no. PHS-88-50210.)
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines
    for Americans. Washington, DC: Department of Agriculture, 1990.
  4. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the
    dietary guidelines for Americans, 1995, to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary
    of Agriculture. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1995.
  5. USPSTF. Screening and Behavioral Counseling Interventions in Primary Care to Reduce Alcohol Misuse. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:555-557.

  6. Reid MC, Fiellin DA, O’Connor PG. Hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in primary care. Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(15):1681-1689.
  7. Alcohol Alert No. 30: Diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse and dependence. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); 1995.
  8. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Assoc; 1994.
  9. NIAAA. Brief Interventions. NIAAA Alcohol Alerts 2005 July; Number 66.
  10. BRFSS, 2006: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/QuickFacts/

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2006.

  12. Gallup Poll:

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged >18 Years
    Who Consumed Five or More Alcoholic Drinks in 1 Day at Least Once in the Preceding Year,
    by Sex and Age Group --- National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2007
    . MMWR 2008:57(49);1333.
  14. Dawson, D.A.; Grant, B.F.; Stinson, F.S.; et al. Toward the attainment of low-risk drinking goals: A 10–year progress report. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 28(9):1371–1378, 2004.
  15. BRFSS, 2006:

  16. BRFSS, 2006:

  17. NHSDA, 1994–2002 http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/Resources/DatabaseResources/QuickFacts/AlcoholConsumption/dkpat3.htm
  18. Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Mokdad A, Denny C, Serdula MK, Marks JS. Binge drinking among US adults. JAMA. 2003 Jan 1;289(1):70-5.
  19. N/A
  20. O'Connor PG, Schottenfeld RS. Patients with alcohol problems. N Engl J Med. 1998;338:592-602.
  21. Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems. A Health Practitioner's Guide. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); 2003. NIH publication No. 03-3769.
  22. Fleming MF, Graham AW. Screening and brief interventions for alcohol use disorders in managed care settings. Recent Dev Alcohol. 2001;15:393-416.
  23. Friedmann PD, Saitz R, Gogineni A, Zhang JX, Stein MD. Validation of the screening strategy in the NIAAA "Physicians' Guide to Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems". J Stud Alcohol. 2001;62:234-8.
    23a. Bradley KA, Williams EC, Achtmeyer CE et al. Measuring performance of brief alcohol counseling in medical settings: a review of the options and lessons from the Veterans Affairs Health Care System. Substance Abuse 2007;28:133-149.
  24. Burge SK, Schneider FD. Alcohol-related problems: recognition and intervention. Am Fam Physician. 1999 Jan 15;59(2):361-70, 372.
  25. Samet JH, Rollnick S, Barnes H. Beyond CAGE: a brief clinical approach after detection of substance abuse. Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:2287-2293. ABSTRACT
  26. Friedmann PD, Saitz R, Samet JH. Management of adults recovering from alcohol or other drug problems. JAMA. 1998;279:1227-1231. FREE FULL TEXT
  27. Volk RJ, Steinbauer JR, Cantor SB, Holzer III CE. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) as a screen for at-risk drinking in primary care patients of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. Addiction. 1997;92:197-206. FULL TEXT
  28. Piccinelli M, Tessari E, Bortolomasi M, et al. Efficacy of the alcohol use disorders identification test as a screening tool for hazardous alcohol intake and related disorders in primary care: a validity study. BMJ. 1997;314:420-424. FREE FULL TEXT
  29. Adams WL, Barry KL, Fleming MF. Screening for problem drinking in older primary care patients. JAMA. 1996;276:1964-1967. ABSTRACT
  30. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2000.
  31. Fleming MF, Manwell LB, Barry KL, Johnson K. At-risk drinking in an HMO primary care sample: prevalence and health policy implications. Am J Public Health. 1998;88:90-3.
  32. Curry SJ, Ludman EJ, Grothaus LC, Donovan D, Kim E. A randomized trial of a brief primary-care-based intervention for reducing at-risk drinking practices. Health Psychol. 2003;22:156-65.
  33. Fleming MF, Manwell LB, Barry KL, Adams W, Stauffacher EA. Brief physician advice for alcohol problems in older adults: a randomized community-based trial. J Fam Pract. 1999;48:378-84.
  34. Ockene JK, Adams A, Hurley TG, Wheeler EV, Hebert JR. Brief physician- and nurse practitioner-delivered counseling for high-risk drinkers: does it work? Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:2198-205.
  35. Fleming MF, Barry KL, Manwell LB, Johnson K, London R. Brief physician advice for problem alcohol drinkers. A randomized controlled trial in community-based primary care practices. JAMA. 1997;277:1039-45.
  36. Senft RA, Polen MR, Freeborn DK, Hollis JF. Brief intervention in a primary care setting for hazardous drinkers. Am J Prev Med. 1997;13:464-70.
  37. Whitlock EP, Green CA, Polen MR. Behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce risky/harmful alcohol use. Systematic Evidence Review. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. April, 2004 (Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?rid=hstat3.chapter.45217
  38. NIH, Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. State of the Science Report on the Effects of Moderate Drinking, Dec 2003.
  39. Holman CD, English DR, Milne E, Winter MG. Meta-analysis of alcohol and all-cause mortality: a validation of NHMRC recommendations. Med J Aust. 1996;164:141-5.
  40. van de Wiel A, van Golde PM, Kraaijenhagen RJ et al. Acute inhibitory effect of alcohol on fibrinolysis.
    Eur J Clin Invest. 2001 Feb;31(2):164-70.
  41. Gowda RM, Khan IA, Vasavada BC, Sacchi TJ. Alcohol-triggered acute myocardial infarction. Am J Ther. 2003 Jan-Feb;10(1):71-2.
  42. Marques-Vidal P, Arveiler D, Evans A, Amouyel P, Ferrieres J, Ducimetiere P. Different alcohol drinking and blood pressure relationships in France and Northern Ireland: The PRIME Study. Hypertension. 2001 Dec 1;38(6):1361-6.
  43. Murray RP, Connett JE, Tyas SL et al. Alcohol volume, drinking pattern, and cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality: is there a U-shaped function? Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Feb 1;155(3):242-8.
  44. U.S. Department of Health& Human Services. National Institutes of Health National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, Number 70 October 2006. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA70/AA70.pdf
  45. Cecchin E, De Marchi S. Alcohol misuse and renal damage. Addict Biol. 1996;1(1):7-17.
  46. Dawson DA, Li TK, Grant BF. A prospective study of risk drinking: at risk for what? Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 May 1;95(1-2):62-72.
  47. Bondy SJ, Rehm J, Ashley MJ, Walsh G, Single E, Room R. Low-risk drinking guidelines: the scientific evidence. Can J Public Health. 1999;90:264-70.
  48. Cherpitel CJ, Tam T, Midanik L, Caetano R, Greenfield T. Alcohol and non-fatal injury in the U.S. general population: a risk function analysis. Accid Anal Prev. 1995;27:651-61.
  49. Spencer RL, Hutchison KE. Alcohol, aging, and the stress response. Alcohol Res Health. 1999;23(4):272-83.
  50. Badrick E, Bobak M, Britton A et al. The relationship between alcohol consumption and cortisol secretion in an aging cohort. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2008; 93(3): 750-757.
  51. Okoro CA, Brewer RD, Naimi TS et al. Binge drinking and health-related quality of life; Do popular perceptions match reality? Am J Prev Med. 2004 Apr;26(3):230-3.
  52. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Stress and Substance Abuse: A Special Report
  53. Dawes MA, Antelman SM, Vanyukov MM, Giancola P, Tarter RE, Susman EJ, Mezzich A, Clark DB: Developmental sources of variation in liability to adolescent substance use disorders. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2000; 61(1): 3-14.
  54. Sinha R, Fuse T, Aubin LR, O'Malley SS: Psychological stress, drug-related cues, and cocaine craving. Psychopharmacology 2000; 152:140-148.
  55. Strine TW, Mokdad AH, Balluz LS et al. Depression and Anxiety in the United States: Findings From the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Psychiatr Serv 2008 Dec; 59:1383-1390
  56. Grant BF, Stinson FS, Dawson DA et al. Prevalence and co-occurrence of substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;61(8):807-16.
  57. Smith SM, Stinson FS, Dawson DA, Goldstein R, Huang B, Grant BF. Race/ethnic differences in the prevalence and co-occurrence of substance use disorders and independent mood and anxiety disorders: Results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psychol Med. 2006 Jul;36(7):987-98.
  58. Hasin DS, Grant BF. Major depression in 6050 former drinkers: association with past alcohol dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002 Sep;59(9):794-800.
  59. Graham K, Massak A, Demers A, Rehm J. Does the association between alcohol consumption and depression depend on how they are measured? Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Jan;31(1):78-88.
  60. Patten SB, Charney DA. Alcohol consumption and major depression in the Canadian population.
    Can J Psychiatry. 1998 Jun;43(5):502-6.
  61. Dawson DA, Grant BF, Chou SP, Stinson FS. The impact of partner alcohol problems on women's physical and mental health. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007 Jan;68(1):66-75.
  62. Hatzenbuehler ML, Keyes KM, Narrow WE, Grant BF, Hasin DS. Racial/ethnic disparities in service utilization for individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the general population: results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;69(7):1112-21.
  63. Fleming MF. Strategies to increase alcohol screening in health care settings. Alcohol Health Res World. 1997;21(4):340-7.
  64. Isaacson JH, Schorling JB. Screening for alcohol problems in primary care. Med Clin North Am. 1999 Nov;83(6):1547-63, viii.
  65. Backer EL, Gregory P, Jaen CR, Crabtree BF. A closer look at adult female health care maintenance visits. Family Medicine 2006; 38(5): 355-360.
  66. Friedmann, P.D.; McCullough, D.; Chin, M.H.; and Saltz, R. Screening and intervention for alcohol problems: National survey of primary care physicians and psychiatrists. Journal of General Internal Medicine 15:84–91, 2000.
  67. Spandorfer JM, Israel Y, Turner BJ. Primary care physicians' views on screening and management of alcohol abuse: inconsistencies with national guidelines. J Fam Pract. 1999;48:899-902.
  68. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA). Missed Opportunity: CASA National Survey of Primary Care Physicians and Patients on Substance Abuse. New York: Columbia University, CASA, 2000.
  69. Loukissa D. Under diagnosis of alcohol misuse in the older adult population. Br J Nurs. 2007 Nov 8-21;16(20):1254-8.
  70. Roeloffs CA, Fink A, Unutzer J et al. Problematic substance use, depressive symptoms, and gender in primary care. Psychiatric Services 2001; 52: 1251-1253.
  71. Martin AC, Schaffer SD, Campbell R. Managing alcohol-related problems in the primary care setting. Nurse Pract. 1999 Aug;24(8):14, 16-8, 21, 25-6, 28, 38-9.
  72. Hasin DS, Stinson FS, Ogburn E, Grant BF. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence in the United States: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;64(7):830-42.
  73. Saunders JB, Aasland OG, Babor TF, de la Fuente JR, Grant M. Development of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): WHO Collaborative Project on Early Detection of Persons with Harmful Alcohol Consumption-II. Addiction. 1993;88(6):791-804.
  74. Fiellin DA, Reid MC, O’Connor PG. Screening for alcohol problems in primary care: a systematic review. Arch Intern Med. 2000160(13):1977-1989.
  75. Ewing JA. Detecting Alcoholism: The CAGE questionnaire. JAMA. 984; 252(14): 1905-1907.
    75a. Desai MM, Rosenheck RA, Craig TJ. Screening for alcohol use disorders among medical outpatients: the influence of individual and facility characteristics. Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:1521-1526.
  76. Chang G. Alcohol-screening instruments for pregnant women. Alcohol Res Health. 2001;25(3):204-209.
  77. Babor TF, Higgins-Biddle JC. Brief Intervention for Hazardous and Harmful Drinking. A Manual for Use in Primary Care. World Health Organization; 2001.
  78. Training Physicians in Techniques for Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Bethesda, MD; 1997.
  79. Whaley SE, O’Conner MJ. Increasing the report of alcohol use among low-income pregnant women. American Journal of Health Promot. 2003;17(6):369-372.
  80. Fleming MF. Identification of at-Risk Drinking and Intervention with Women of Childbearing Age: Guide for Primary Care Providers. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIH. Bethesda, Maryland; 2000.
    80a. Hawkins EJ, Kivlahan DR, Williams EC et al. Examining quality issues in alcohol misuse screening. Substance Abuse 2007;28:53-66.
    80b. American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the treatment of patients with substance use disorders, Second edition. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 4(Suppl):1-124 (pp.11-12)
    80c. NIAAA, adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Copyright 2000 American Psychiatric Association. http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/

  81. Whitlock EP, Orleans CT, Pender N, Allan J. Evaluating primary care behavioral counseling interventions. An evidence-based approach. Am J Prev Med. 2002; 22(4):267-284.
  82. Miller WR, Rollnick S, Con K. Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press; 2002.
  83. Anderson JE, Jorenby DE, Scott WJ, Fiore MC. Treating tobacco use and dependence: an evidence-based clinical practice guideline for tobacco cessation. Chest. 2002;121(3):932-941.
  84. Prochaska JO, Velicer WF. The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. Am J Health Promot. 1997;12(1):38-48.
  85. Babor TF. The social and public health significance of individually directed interventions. In: Holder HD, Edwards G, eds. Alcohol and Public Policy: Evidence and Issues. Oxford Univ Pr; 1995:164-89.
  86. Maisto SA, Saitz R. Alcohol use disorders: screening and diagnosis. Am J Addict. 2003;12 Suppl 1:S12-25.
  87. Fiellin DA, Reid MC, O'Connor PG. Screening for alcohol problems in primary care: a systematic review. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:1977-89.
  88. Bradley KA, Boyd-Wickizer J, Powell SH, Burman ML. Alcohol screening questionnaires in women: a critical review. JAMA. 1998;280:166-71.
  89. Reinert DF, Allen JP. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT): a review of recent research. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2002;26:272-9.
  90. Helping Patients with Alcohol Problems. A Health Practitioner's Guide. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); 2003. NIH publication No. 03-3769.
  91. NIAAA. Brief Interventions. NIAAA Alcohol Alerts 2005 July; Number 66.
  92. Moyer, A., and Finney, J.W. Brief interventions for alcohol problems: Factors that facilitate implementation. Alcohol Research & Health 28(1):44–50, 2004/2005.
  93. Miller, W.R., and Rollnick, S. Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change. New York: Guilford Press, 2002.
  94. Moyer, A.; Finney, J.W.; Swearingen, C.E.; and Vergun, P. Brief interventions for alcohol problems: A meta-analytic review of controlled investigations in treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking populations. Addiction 97:279–292, 2002.
  95. Whitlock EP, Polen MR, Green CA, Orleans CT, Klein J. Behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce risky/harmful alcohol use by adults. Ann Intern Med 2004;140:558-69.
  96. Beich A, Thorsen T, Rollnick S. Screening in brief intervention trials targeting excessive drinkers in general practice: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2003;327:536-42.
  97. Cuijpers, P.; Riper, H.; and Lemmers, L. The effects on mortality of brief interventions for problem drinking: A meta-analysis. Addiction 99:839–845, 2004.
  98. Whitlock EP, Orleans CT, Pender N, Allan J. Evaluating primary care behavioral counseling interventions: an evidence-based approach. Am J Prev Med. 2002;22:267-84.
  99. Curry SJ, Ludman EJ, Grothaus LC, Donovan D, Kim E. A randomized trial of a brief primary-care-based intervention for reducing at-risk drinking practices. Health Psychol. 2003;22:156-65.
  100. Fleming MF, Manwell LB, Barry KL, Adams W, Stauffacher EA. Brief physician advice for alcohol problems in older adults: a randomized community-based trial. J Fam Pract. 1999;48:378-84.
  101. Ockene JK, Adams A, Hurley TG, Wheeler EV, Hebert JR. Brief physician- and nurse practitioner-delivered counseling for high-risk drinkers: does it work? Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:2198-205.
  102. Fiore MC, Bailey WC, Cohen SJ, Dorfman SF, Goldstein MG, Gritz ER, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service; 2000.
  103. Ockene, J.K.; Wheeler, E.V.; Adams, A.; et al. Provider training for patient-centered alcohol counseling in a primary care setting. Archives of Internal Medicine 1997;157:2334–2341
  104. Greco, P.J., and Eisenberg, J.M. Changing physicians’ practices. New England Journal of Medicine 329:1271–1273, 1993.
  105. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS).Tenth Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health: Highlights From Current Research. Washington, DC: USDHHS, 2000.
  106. Fleming, M.F., and Graham, A.W. Screening and brief interventions for alcohol use disorders in managed care settings. In: Galanter, M., ed. Recent Developments in Alcoholism, Vol. 15: Services Research in the Era of Managed Care. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2001. pp. 393–416.
  107. Hickson, G.B.; Altemeier, W.A.; and Perrin, J.M. Physician reimbursement by salary or fee-for-service: Effect on physician practice behavior in a randomized prospective study. Pediatrics 80: 344–350, 1987.
  108. Fleming, M.F.; Barry, K.L.; Manwell, L.B.; et al. Brief physician advice for problem alcohol drinkers. A randomized controlled trial in community-based primary care practices. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 277:1039–1045, 1997.
  109. Watkins K, Pincus HA, Tanielian TL, Lloyd J. Using the chronic care model to improve treatment of alcohol use disorders in primary care settings. J Stud Alcohol. 2003 Mar;64(2):209-18.
  110. NIAAA: How To Help Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinical Approach http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/CliniciansGuide2005/
  111. Butler, S.F.; Chiauzzi, E.; Bromberg, J.I.; et al. Computer-assisted screening and intervention for alcohol problems in primary care. Journal of Technology in Human Services 21:1–19, 2003.
  112. Squires, D.D., and Hester, R.K. Using technological innovations in clinical practice: The Drinker’s Check-Up Software Program. Journal of Clinical Psychology 60:159–169, 2004.
  113. Gerbert, B.; Berg-Smith, S.; Mancuso, M.; et al. Using innovative video doctor technology in primary care to deliver brief smoking and alcohol intervention. Health Promotion and Practice 4:249–261, 2003.


Depression is a serious medical condition that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. [1]

  • It is characterized by changes in mood, self-attitude, cognitive functioning, sleep, appetite, and energy level.
  • It affects the way we eat and sleep, the way we feel about ourselves, the way we think about things.
  • It is not the same as a passing blue mood, a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away.
  • People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better.
  • Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.
  • Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who have depression.

Major depression is a clinical syndrome of at least five symptoms that cluster together, last for at least 2 weeks, and cause impairment in functioning; symptoms range from mild and chronic to severe and more acute (DSM-IV). [2]

  • Mood symptoms include depressed, sad or irritable mood, loss of interest in usual activities, inability to experience pleasure, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Cognitive symptoms include inability to concentrate and difficulty making decisions.
  • Physical symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy, feeling either restless or slowed down, and changes in sleep, appetite, and activity levels.

Depressive symptoms may occur in a variety of conditions (bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, dysthymia, etc.) which have very different implications for treatment.

  • The information presented here applies to major depressive disorder (MDD), as well as subthreshold depressive symptoms (i.e., not meeting full diagnostic criteria for MDD).
  • A clear diagnosis needs to be made to screen out patients for whom the standard treatment of MDD might not be appropriate (e.g. bipolar depression) to avoid possible adverse results.
  • It should be noted that a text revision of 1994 DSM-IV, called DSM-IV-TR,was published in July 2000 (next revision is 2012). For a summary of practice relevant changes, go to:


Depression is becoming widely characterized as a chronic disorder, like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, based partly on its high recurrence rate. Approximately half of those diagnosed with depression experience a recurrence within 2 years, and more than 80% within 5 to 7 years. [3-5]


Depression is one of the most prevalent and debilitating mental health conditions, affecting 17.6 million Americans of all ages each year. [6]

  • Many more people live with some undiagnosed depressive symptoms that reduce their ability to lead full and productive lives.

It can be an episodic condition. Some people have an episode, get well, and may or may not have another episode later in their life.

  • In 2005-2006, during any 2-week period, more than 1 in 20 Americans 12 years of age and older (5.4%) had depression. [7]
  • Rates were higher in 40-59 year olds, women, non-Hispanic black persons, and poor persons than in other demographic groups.
    • Women vs men: 7% vs 4%
    • Age 40-59 vs other ages: 7% vs 4%
    • Black vs White: 8% vs 5%
    • Below poverty level vs At or above poverty level: 13% vs 4%
    • Age 40-59 AND below poverty level vs Age 40-59 AND at or above poverty level: 22% vs 6%

The 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey showed that the overall prevalence of current depressive symptoms was 8.7%. [8]

  • Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, smoking, and obesity were all significantly associated with current depressive symptoms, as well as a lifetime diagnosis of depression.
  • Physically inactive adults were significantly more likely than those who were physically active to have current depressive symptoms or a lifetime diagnosis of depression.
  • Those who drank heavily were significantly more likely than those who did not to have current depressive symptoms or a lifetime diagnosis of anxiety.

The prevalence of a lifetime diagnosis of depression has been shown to be 13% to 15%. [8,9]

The highest risk of major depression currently occurs in baby boomers, a shift from the younger adult population shown to be at highest risk during the 1980s and 1990s. [11]

  • This marks an important transformation in the distribution of major depressive disorder (MDD) in the general population and specific risk for those aged 45 to 64 years.

Depression in the elderly is also a common clinical problem seen in the primary care setting with prevalence estimates of 6-9%. [11a]

  • Similar to the younger population, depression in the elderly is commonly unrecognized or under-recognized, and treatment is either absent or inadequate.

The development of depression seems to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain that involves the brain's neurotransmitters. [12]

  • This imbalance makes it hard for the cells to communicate with one another; a reduction in the activity of serotonin, one of these neurotransmitters, appears to be an important factor in the development and severity of depression.
  • A genetic component has also been identified.

A number of factors are associated with an increase in the incidence of depression.

  • Stressful events, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or loss of a job
  • Having had prior bouts of depression, especially at a younger age
  • Female gender
  • The postpartum period
  • Certain medicines
  • Current substance abuse
  • Other illnesses
  • Being socially isolated
  • Having a family history of depression
  • Prior suicide attempts

VA/DoD Practice Guidelines, Pocket Card (includes other lists of helpful information)

Depression may also develop for no apparent reason in some people who have a genetic predisposition toward a depressive mood state.

  • Depression is not caused by personal weakness, laziness or lack of willpower. [12]

Relation to lifestyle habits:
Depression can lead to worsening health habits, including: [13]

  • an increase in cigarette consumption
  • excessive alcohol use
  • a decrease in physical activity

Relation to Alcohol:
Excessive alcohol use, as well as smoking and drug use, is more common with depression. [11,15]

  • Among persons with current MDD, about 1 in 7 also have an alcohol use disorder (1 in 20 have a drug use disorder, and 1 in 4 have nicotine dependence).
  • Among persons with lifetime MDD, 2 in 5 had experienced an alcohol use disorder, (nearly 1 in 5 a drug use disorder, and 1 in 3 nicotine dependence).

The NESARC results demonstrate a strong relationship of MDD to substance dependence and a weak relationship to substance abuse. [11]

  • This finding is supported by genetic studies that have identified factors common to both MDD and alcohol dependence, and epidemiologic findings of excess MDD in former alcoholics.

The 2006 BRFSS found that those who drank alcohol heavily were significantly more likely than those who did not to have current depressive symptoms. [16]


Primary care is the front line for reducing the burden of depression.

  • Most patients with psychological problems seek help from their primary care doctor rather than a mental health specialist. [17-20]
  • The role of primary care providers is probably so vital because of patients’ ongoing relationship, and comfort level, with their primary care physicians, as well as the stigma associated with seeing a mental health specialist. [21,22]
  • Anxiety and depression are among the most common concerns seen in primary care. [18,23-25]

Depression is a common and debilitating illness. It is treatable, but the majority of people with depression do not receive even minimally adequate treatment. [26]

The USPSTF recommends routine depression screening for adult patients, if the practice has "systems in place to follow up with an accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and careful follow-up. [27]

  • Considerable effort has gone into promoting screening and intervention for depression in primary care. This effort includes guidelines and recommendations, CME opportunities, tools and protocols to facilitate the process, and clinical trials that demonstrate efficacy. [6]

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most pressing public health problems in the United States. Depression is associated with substantial impairment, [29-31] co-morbidity, [29-31] poor health, [32] and mortality. [33]

Quality of Life
People diagnosed with depression experience long-lasting problems in daily functioning and sense of well-being, comparable to or worse than patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or congestive heart failure. [6]

  • Depressed patients continue to suffer symptoms and depressive episodes even at 2 years of follow-up.
  • Causes suffering, decreases quality of life, and impairs social and occupational functioning. [34]

An evaluation of 17,558 outpatients of 181 PCPs in 7 managed care organizations found that depressed patients had significantly worse HRQOL than patients who have other chronic conditions. [35]

Overall, approximately 8 out of 10 people with moderate to severe depression reported some level of difficulty in functioning, and greater than 1 in 4 reported serious difficulties in work and home life because of their depressive symptoms. [7]

  • 35% of males and 22% of females with depression reported that their depressive symptoms made it very or extremely difficult for them to work, get things done at home, or get along with other people.
  • More than half with mild depressive symptoms had some difficulty in daily functioning attributable to their symptoms.

Depressive illness is projected to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide in 2020, next to ischemic cardiovascular disease. [36]

Persistently elevated depressive symptoms in elderly persons are associated with a steep trajectory of worsening functional disability.

  • Persistently depressed people had 5 times greater functional disability compared with the non-depressed group over 3 years of follow-up. [37]
  • The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging showed that high depressive symptoms were associated with an increased risk of onset of disability in activities of daily living (ADL) for both men and women, the combination initiating a spiraling decline in physical and psychological health. [38]

Depression often coexists with other long-term health problems, presenting additional complexities.

  • 3 out of 5 depressed outpatients have at least one other chronic medical condition as well, such as a heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. [6]

Even sub-clinical levels of depressive symptoms can increase the likelihood of non-adherence to medical regimens, health care utilization, adverse outcomes, and development of co-morbidities. [39]

  • Depression can also undermine healthy behaviors (leading to less activity, unhealthy eating, and substance abuse, especially increased alcohol consumption).
  • Studies have shown that a high number of depressive symptoms are associated with poor health and impaired functioning, whether or not the criteria for a diagnosis of major depression are met. [40,41]

Coexisting psychiatric and medical illnesses must be targeted for treatment along with depression. [6]

  • Depression and anxiety disorders often coexist.
  • Coexisting conditions are especially an issue in older persons, with more conditions and prescriptions usually present.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
Increasing evidence supports an association between symptomatic depression and
the development of CVD.

  • There is a dose-response relationship between level of depression and incidence of angina (highest levels had twice the risk as lowest levels). [43]
  • Patients with a history of heart attacks have 1.8 times more depressive episodes in a year and more persistent symptoms than depressed patients without a history of heart attacks. [6]
  • High levels of depressive symptoms are associated with increased risks of MI and mortality over time. [44]
  • The relationship between depression and poorer heart failure outcomes is consistent and strong across multiple end points. [45]
  • Depressive symptoms during early adulthood are associated with higher levels of carotid intima-media thickness in men but not in women. [46]

Depressive symptoms at baseline have been associated with higher follow-up blood glucose levels and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. [47]

  • Depressed adults have a 37% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, but the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying this relationship are still unclear. [48]
  • Individuals in the highest quartile of depressive symptoms had a 63% increased risk of developing diabetes compared with those in the lowest quartile. [49]

Obesity in women has been related to episodes of major depression. [50]

Depression is not considered a part of the normal aging process and is different than bereavement or grief. Depression in the elderly leads to decreased functional status and increased mortality. [11a]

  • Suicide in the elderly is also a concern. The primary risk factor for suicide and suicidal thoughts in the elderly is depression. [51a]
  • The elderly have the highest rates of suicide among all age groups. While the elderly comprise about l3% of the U.S. population, they account for approximately 20-25% of completed suicides. [11a,51a]

Primary care physicians are the providers most likely to see patients with depression.

  • Relatively few patients with depression see a mental health professional: [7]
    • 1 in 7 with mild symptoms
    • Fewer than 1 in 4 with moderate symptoms
    • Fewer than 2 in 5 with severe depression

Despite the efforts to enhance depression screening, diagnosis and treatment in primary care, many clinicians still do not routinely assess and assist patients with symptoms of depression. [18-20,25,51,52]

Studies have shown that usual care by primary care physicians fail to recognize 30% to 50% of depressed patients. [25,53,54]

  • The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that at least 1 in 3 adults with a major depressive episode in the past year received no treatment for it. [55]
  • More men than women were untreated (44.4% vs 29.1%)
  • Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to be treated (43.6 and 49.8% not treated).
  • Up to one in four primary care patients suffer from depression; yet, primary care doctors identify only one-third (31 percent) of these patients. [56]

The accuracy of depression recognition by non-psychiatrist physicians without a standardized protocol is low. [57]

Even when identified, evidence based treatment is under-used, especially in minority and older patients. [19,20,58,59]

Only 6 in 10 patients with major depressive disorder received treatment specifically for their depression in 2001and 2002. [11,15]

  • Mean age of treatment – 33.5 years, with a lag time of about 3 years between onset and treatment.
  • The NESARC indicated a continued lack of treatment for many respondents with major depression, especially in men where half received no treatment.
  • Only 46% to 57% are receiving treatment and only 18% to 25% are adequately treated. [31]

There are many reasons people with depression do not receive treatment. [60]

  • Some do not realize they have an illness that can be treated.
  • Some do not believe treatment works.
  • Other barriers to treatment include the stigma surrounding mental illness and mental health treatment and lack of insurance coverage for mental health care.

Many who are treated are not adequately treated.

  • Current treatments leave a significant minority (20%-40%) of patients with persistent depressive symptoms. [61]
  • In community practice, only one third of patients treated for depression reached full remission after acute-phase treatment. [62]

Benefits from screening are unlikely to be realized without systems in place to ensure follow-up, as recommended by the USPSTF. [27,63]

  • Considerable evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) shows that depression treatment (both medications and counseling) can be improved in primary care settings when it involves a systematic method to:
    • Provide care management with close follow-up by a non-physician working with the primary care physician
    • Enhance collaboration with mental health providers
    • Provide education and self-management support
  • There is no evidence that simple brief messages alone have any effect.

The key message is that systems need to be implemented in primary care to ensure proper follow-up of patients who screen positive for depression. This includes diagnostic procedures, treatment and management plans and ongoing follow-up.

Diagnosis and Monitoring
The Robert Wood Johnson Diabetes Initiative suggests that the PHQ-2 and PHQ-9 can readily be done in a variety of practice settings. [66]

  • The PHQ-2 was found to be very feasible for routine enrollment for group classes.

Asking the following two questions (PHQ-2) are as effective as longer screening instruments:

  • Over the past 2 weeks, have you ever felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
  • Over the past 2 weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?

In primary care, the patient health questionnaire (PHQ)-9, a nine-question survey, is a validated and reliable tool that the primary care physician can use to diagnose and treat depression and to monitor progress. [64,65]

  • A score of 10 or higher is used as the cutoff for a clinical diagnosis of depression and as an indication of the need to begin therapy.
  • A meta-analysis found a sensitivity of 0.77 and a specificity of 0.94.
  • The positive predictive value in an unselected primary care population was 59%, which increased to 85-90% when the prior probability increased to 30-40%.

The PHQ-9 should be assessed at every visit essentially as a lab test of depression severity/improvement. [66a]

Link to PHQ-9:

Assessing Suicide Risk
All depressed patients must be queried specifically about suicidal ideation. [66b]

  • A patient who expresses suicidal ideation and/or a plan needs further assessment (evaluation of suicide risk factors) and perhaps psychiatric referral on a non-urgent or urgent basis, depending on the circumstances.

Any positive or equivocal response should be followed up immediately with the following:

  • Ask about the specific nature of the ideation, intent, plans, and actions.
  • Assess risk factors for suicide:
    • other psychiatric disorders, medical illnesses
    • prior history of suicide attempts
    • family history of attempted suicide or death by suicide
    • older age, male gender, age specific race risks( eg, older white males, young adult black males), marital status (e.g., widowed or separated) and living alone
  • Develop a safe plan for further evaluation and treatment, which depending on the level of risk may range from continued primary follow-up alone to outpatient or emergency psychiatric evaluation.

A sensitivity to high-risk situations in depressed patients and clear documentation that suicidality was assessed in patients being treated for depression are appropriate in the primary care setting, and may uncover occasional patients who make their intent known and are amenable to intervention. [66c]

Overcoming Reluctance to Address Suicide
Clinicians worry at times that asking about suicide will initiate suicidal thoughts or actions, but there are no data to support this concern. [66c]

  • In contrast, many patients appreciate the opportunity to discuss suicidal thoughts, and may not verbalize these issues without being prompted. Sometimes the only clue to a suicidal patient is the initiation of an office visit.

Although primary care clinicians capably manage more than 75% of patients with depression, referral for psychiatric evaluation is recommended in patients with the following: [67]

  • history of psychosis or suspected of having a primary psychotic disorder
  • potentially suicidal
  • history of bipolar disorder or symptoms of mania
  • substantial trouble tolerating medication adverse effects
  • depression that has not responded to 2 adequate trials of antidepressants
  • complex co-morbid medical conditions that complicate choice of antidepressant
  • complex co-morbid mental conditions or substance abuse problems

It is important to make a clear differential diagnosis to rule out these conditions prior to initiating antidepressant therapy, which could make them worse.

  • To help recognize these conditions (psychosis or bipolar disorder) in order to make a referral, use the DSM-IV criteria for these conditions or a screening tool such as a mania rating scale.
  • The Young Mania Rating Scale is one:


Guidelines for Approach to Managing Major Depression
According to the APA practice guidelines, the specific components of managing patients with MDD include:

  • performing a diagnostic evaluation
  • evaluating the safety of the patient and others
  • evaluating the level of functional impairment
  • determining a treatment setting
  • establishing and maintaining a therapeutic alliance
  • monitoring the patient’s psychiatric status and safety
  • providing education to patients and families
  • enhancing treatment adherence
  • working with patients to address early signs of relapse [67a]

Depression is a treatable condition. Effective treatments are available. [68,69]

  • Successful treatment enables people to return to the level of functioning they had before becoming depressed. [7]

The majority of people with depressive disorders improve when they receive appropriate treatment. [70]

  • The first step is a physical examination to rule out other possible causes of symptoms.
  • Next, a diagnostic evaluation for depression or referral to a mental health professional for evaluation.
  • Treatment choice depends on the diagnosis, severity of symptoms, and preference.
  • A variety of treatments, including medications and short-term psychotherapies (i.e., "talking" therapies), have proven effective for depression.
  • In general, severe depressive symptoms, particularly if recurrent, require a combination of treatments for the best outcome.
  • Once the patient is feeling better, treatment may need to be continued for several months-and in some cases, indefinitely-to prevent a relapse.

Follow-up is critical

  • Patients need to be monitored (by phone or visit) every one to two weeks for six to eight weeks during the initiation phase of new pharmacologic treatment. [70a]
  • The AHCPR Panel recommended that more severely depressed patients be seen at least twice a month for supportive care]. The PHQ-9 tool may be used to assess depression response over time. [70b]

Approach to Treatment
The goal of the initial treatment phase is to achieve remission either by pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of modalities. [71]

  • Continuation and maintenance phases aim at preventing relapse and lifelong recurrence; the PHQ-2 or PHQ-9 score can guide clinicians on treatment modifications and the need for referrals for psychiatric evaluation.
  • Frequent follow-ups have been associated with better outcomes; 3 contacts within the 12 weeks after initial diagnosis are considered ideal.

Pharmacotherapy and psychological therapy are the cornerstone of treatment. [72]

  • Antidepressant medications for major depression, including tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are clearly more effective than placebo.
  • Studies using "usual care" comparison groups in real-world settings have produced similar effects.
  • Second-generation antidepressants (SSRIs) dominate the management of depression, but do not substantially differ in efficacy or effectiveness from first generation drugs (TCAs).
  • Differences with respect to onset of action and adverse events may be relevant for the choice of a medication.
  • Psychosocial and psychotherapeutic interventions are probably as effective as antidepressant medications for major depression and more acceptable for many, but they are clearly more time-intensive and require referral or therapist training. [73]

The severity of depression must be considered. For severe levels of depression, pharmacotherapy may be necessary.

Combined psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy have been shown to be more efficacious than either alone. [75]

A lifestyle approach is another option; some people, especially milder cases, prefer this approach for the overall health benefits. [75a]

  • The approach includes exercise, stress management, diet, education and weight loss.
  • Fulfills one of the primary recommendations for depression – to ‘just do it’, and at least the exercise aspect promotes the release of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters.
  • But if a short trial of lifestyle approaches does not improve depression symptoms, more specific treatments should be initiated.

A systematic review shows the range of treatments that are supported by evidence, including antidepressants, electroconvulsive therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, reminiscence therapy, problem-solving therapy, bibliotherapy (for mild to moderate depression) and exercise. [76]

Managing the Elderly Patient
As in younger patients, depression in the elderly is treatable. [11a]

A meta-analysis of 89 controlled studies of treatments of depression in older patients found that both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy work, with effect sizes that are moderate to large. [74]

  • Treatment choice should be based on other criteria, such as contraindications, treatment access, or patient preferences.

Pharmacologic therapy is often more challenging because of the presence of co-morbid conditions and/or other medications. [11a]

  • The current feeling is that SSRIs are first-line agents with serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as venlafaxine or duloxetine as second line agents.
  • TCAs and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are infrequently used anymore in treating elderly.
  • SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects, thus patients tend to tolerate them better.
  • SSRIs also have the advantage of being safer than TCAs in the event of an overdose.
  • Psychotherapy is also effective for treatment of depression in the elderly and the combination of drug therapy with psychotherapy can be quite helpful.

Managing Suicide Risk
The PRoSPECT trial showed that a combination of an SSRI (citalopram) and "depression care managers" led to resolution of suicidal ideation faster than "usual care." [51a]

The Importance of Support
A meta-analysis showed that interventions that included the spouse had positive effects on depression, in some cases, on mortality. [77]

Anti-Depressant Medications

Older anti-depressant therapy

An Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ) review of 32 pharmaceutical and herbal treatments for depression found that older drugs (tricyclic anti-depressants or TCAs) are generally as efficacious as newer drugs (SSRIs). [6]

  • The study also found that patients discontinue their use of these drugs at similar rates (4-5%), although the two categories of drugs differ in the kinds of side effects patients are most likely to experience.
  • Serum levels for TCAs should be monitored if an inadequate response is obtained on a therapeutic dose. Some TCAs, such as nortriptyline, have a therapeutic window that needs to be achieved.

Second generation anti-depressants

An American College of Physicians (ACP) guideline and evidence review made 4 recommendations concerning the use of second-generation antidepressants for major depressive disorder: [78]

  1. Select second-generation antidepressants on the basis of adverse effect profiles, cost, and patient preferences (Grade: strong recommendation; moderate-quality evidence).
  2. Assess patient status, therapeutic response, and adverse effects of antidepressant therapy on a regular basis beginning within 1 to 2 weeks of initiation of therapy (Grade: strong recommendation; moderate-quality evidence).
  3. Modify treatment if the patient does not have an adequate response within 6 to 8 weeks of initiation of therapy (Grade: strong recommendation; moderate-quality evidence).
  4. Continue treatment for 4 to 9 months after a satisfactory response with a first episode. For 2 or more episodes, an even longer duration of therapy may be beneficial (Grade: strong recommendation; moderate-quality evidence).

Current evidence does not warrant the choice of one second-generation antidepressant over another based on efficacy and effectiveness. [79]

  • However, the incidence of specific adverse events and the onset of action differed, so these are relevant in the choice of a medication.

A Cochrane review showed that the frequency of specific adverse events differs across drugs. [80]

  • Venlafaxine had a significantly higher rate of nausea and vomiting than selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
  • Paroxetine led to more sexual adverse effects and bupropion to fewer such effects;
  • Mirtazapine and paroxetine were associated with more weight gain
  • Sertraline was associated with a higher rate of diarrhea.
  • Overall, however, there were no differences in discontinuation rates.

Black Box Warning for Anti-Depressants
In 2004, the FDA placed a "black box" in the prescribing information for antidepressant medications used for children and adolescents indicating that these groups had higher rates of suicidality in the first few months after beginning treatment with these medications.

In May 2007, the FDA updated the previous black box warning to add young adults (individuals ages 18-24) to the warning of increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors during the initial phase of treatment (generally the first one to two months).

FDA information for patients on the risks of suicidal thoughts when taking antidepressants:

Assessing Response to Anti-Depressant Therapy
It generally takes about 6-8 weeks to assess the maximal response to antidepressant therapy. A determination made before this time is open to question.

  • A meta-analysis of 50 RCTs found that about a third of the maximal therapeutic response is observed after the first week, but the maximal response may take 6 weeks or longer. [80a].
  • In the multicenter STAR*D trial, the mean time to achieve response was 5.7 weeks and the mean treatment time to remission was 6.7 weeks. [80b]
  • More than half of eventual responders to fluoxetine treatment began to respond by week 2; over 75% had begun to respond by week 4. [80c]
  • The lack of onset of response at 4-6 weeks was associated with a 73%-88% chance that patients would not respond.
  • If a patient is not responding by 8 to 12 weeks, it could mean that either the dose is inadequate or that particular antidepressant is not effective for the patient. Options include increasing to the maximum therapeutic dose, a trial of another antidepressant or referral to a psychiatrist [80d].

Anti-depressants in the Elderly
The general prescribing rule of "start low, go slow" applies.

  • Elderly patients clear drugs more slowly, so it's advisable to start with a lower dose than the usual adult dose and gradually increase it to the therapeutic dose range.
  • As an example, the current prescribing information for Paxil CR (see www.paxil.com) recommends starting the drug at a reduced dosage in elderly patients since drug concentrations were notably higher in elderly patients compared to non-elderly.
  • As with any psychoactive drug, SSRIs have adverse effects of concern to the elderly including impairment of psychomotor skills and alterations in thought or judgment.
  • SSRIs have also been associated with movement disorders and, in the case of paroxetine, hyponatremia (low serum sodium concentration).
  • SSRIs(and other types of antidepressants have the potential for drug-drug interactions that must be taken into consideration before a particular medication is prescribed.

Presence of pain
Approximately 2 out of 3 patients with depression experience physical pain. [81]

  • Coexisting pain complicates the treatment of depression and is associated with worse depression outcomes.
  • A pooled analysis of trials of newer antidepressants showed that both duloxetine and paroxetine were superior to placebo, there was no difference between the two.

Psychological interventions
A large group of patients prefer psychological therapy to taking antidepressants. [6]

Psychological interventions are effective; they are significantly linked to clinical improvement in depressive symptoms and are useful for supplementing usual care. [82]

  • Includes interventions for which there is evidence of specific efficacy, including:
    • interpersonal therapy, where relationship issues are involved
    • cognitive behavior therapy, for internalizers characterized by irrational thoughts
    • behavior therapy, for externalizers – patients influenced by habits
    • psychodynamic therapy, when complex early experiences are involved [75a]

Concerns over the clinical effectiveness of psychological therapies compared to usual general practitioner (GP) care or treatment with antidepressants were evaluated in a meta-analysis of 10 RCTs comparing psychological intervention with either usual GP care or antidepressant medication for major depression. [82]

  • The analysis showed greater effectiveness of psychological intervention over usual GP care in both the short term and long term.

There is renewed interest in behavioral therapy. A systematic review of 17 RCTs showed behavioral therapies to be superior to controls, brief psychotherapy, supportive therapy and equal to cognitive behavioral therapy. [83]

  • Behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for depression with outcomes equal to that of the current recommended psychological intervention.

The cost-effectiveness of psychological interventions has been questioned.

  • A meta-analysis showed that psychotherapy was more expensive than usual care, but not significantly more expensive than antidepressant treatment. [84]
  • There are indications that the cost-effectiveness of depression treatment on the whole may be improved by incorporating psychological treatments tailored to the needs of individual patients and/or providing them by trained nurses instead of psychologists or psychotherapists.

Preventing major depression in those with milder symptoms
Sub-threshold depression has a considerable impact on the quality of life and carries a high risk of developing major depressive disorder.

  • A meta-analysis of 7 high quality RCTs examining the effects of psychological treatments for sub-threshold depression found a relative risk of 0.7 for developing a major depressive disorder in subjects who received the intervention. [85]
  • Psychological treatments have significant effects on subthreshold depression.

Prevention of new cases of depressive disorders is often possible with psychological interventions.

  • A meta-analysis of 19 studies showed that preventive interventions resulted in a 22% reduction in the incidence of depressive disorders compared with control groups. [86]

Lifestyle approaches
Ample evidence supports the connection between certain lifestyle behaviors and mental health. [87-93]

  • Lifestyle strategies offer an appealing adjunct to conventional treatment plans for a variety of reasons: [94]
    • Lifestyle strategies are low – especially considering the adverse effects of some pharmaceutical therapies.
    • They have potential to impact the entire range of associated medical and behavioral conditions and co-morbidities.
    • Many patients are interested in non-pharmacological approaches.
    • The strategies may reduce stigmatization.
  • However, they have not yet become a routine part of managing mood disorders in clinical practice. [87-90]

Many studies have demonstrated the positive psychological effects of regular aerobic exercise in healthy people, including reduced perceived stress, reduced anxiety or depressive symptoms, and an increase in self-esteem. [87-89]

  • There is also solid evidence that regular exercise is associated with therapeutic effects in patients suffering from depressive and possibly other psychiatric disorders.
  • There is experimental evidence that regular exercise induces a downregulation of certain central serotonergic receptors, which play an important role in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression. [95]

A Cochrane review reported that exercise seems to improve depressive symptoms in people with a diagnosis of depression, but the effect is only moderate, and not statistically significant when only the highest quality trials are included. [96]

A Cochrane review to determine whether relaxation techniques can reduce depressive symptoms and improve response/remission reported that: [97]

  • Relaxation techniques were more effective at reducing symptoms than minimal treatment.
  • However, they were not as effective as psychological treatment.

Relaxation may be appropriate as a first-line treatment in a stepped care approach to managing depression, especially in younger populations and populations with sub-threshold or first episodes of depression. [97]

Impact of Alcohol or Substance Abuse
Coexisting substance dependence disorder predicts a poor clinical outcome. [11]

  • A decade ago, treatment leaders discouraged treating MDD in patients with substance dependence until the substance dependence was resolved.
  • Over time, epidemiologic surveys and clinical trials have changed the picture, so that treating both disorders simultaneously is common practice today.

Depression and substance abuse are common and costly disorders that frequently co-occur, but controversy about effective treatment for patients with both disorders persists. [99]

  • A systematic review to quantify the efficacy of antidepressant medications for treatment of combined depression and substance use disorders showed that antidepressant medication exerts a modest beneficial effect for patients with combined depressive- and substance-use disorders.
  • In this instance, medication should not be a stand-alone treatment, and concurrent therapy directly targeting the addiction is also indicated.
  • However, another systematic review of the efficacy of antidepressant drugs in patients with alcohol use disorders and co-morbid depression, was inconclusive regarding the effectiveness of antidepressants for alcohol dependence with co-morbid depression. [100]

Three aspects of depression care need to be addressed:

  • Many patients with depressive symptoms are not identified
  • When identified, treatment is often inadequate; brief advice is clearly not enough
  • Office systems are not set up to provide ongoing care; depression is not treated like a chronic episodic disease in which the care plan needs to respond to current needs

Improving outcomes for patients with major depression is not as simple as prescribing a new treatment: the whole process of care needs to be enhanced. [101,102] These enhancements include:

  • Changes in the organization and function of healthcare teams, like those used to improve outcomes in other chronic diseases [103]
  • Use of treatment guidelines, patient education, and screening procedures
  • Responsibility for active follow up taken on by a case manager (e.g., a practice nurse) by telephone
  • Adherence and outcomes monitored, treatment plans adjusted, and a relationship established with a mental health professional for consultation and referral when necessary [104,105]

A number of barriers have been identified that impede the delivery of effective care for people with depressive symptoms. [18,20,106,107] These include:

  • Time constraints
  • Reimbursement disincentives
  • A perceived lack of self efficacy to address emotional issues
  • Concerns about the risk of stigmatizing patients with the diagnosis and treatmen

The long-term care of patients with persisting depressive symptoms may be well served by adding a disease management component to the overall treatment strategy. [108]

  • The ultimate goal is remission, but it is often elusive.
  • Therapeutic strategies need to be adjusted for treatment resistant patients.
  • The STAR*D trial has shown the value of trying different psychopharmacological approaches, switching antidepressants or augmenting antidepressants that have induced partial remission. [108a]
  • Failure to achieve remission should be grounds for a specialty referral or at least consultation

Need to tailor treatment plan:
Better matching of treatment plans to patient preferences, and potentially increased use of evidence-based options, should enhance satisfaction as well as outcomes. [18,109-112]

  • Categorizing depression as mild, moderate or severe will help develop appropriate management and therapeutic strategies. [113] An example of classification criteria from the VA/DoD guidelines: [113a]
    • Mild: minor symptoms (e.g., depressed mood, mild insomnia) OR some difficulty in social, occupational or school functioning, but functioning pretty well with some meaningful interpersonal relationships
    • Moderate: more significant symptoms (e.g., flat effect, occasional panic attacks) OR moderate difficulty in social, occupational or school functioning (e.g., few friends, conflicts with peers, co-workers)
    • Severe: serious symptoms (e.g., suicidal ideation, severe obsessions, frequent shoplifting) OR any serious impairment in social, occupational or school functioning (e.g., no friends, unable to keep a job)
  • Robust evidence exists to prescribe effective doses of antidepressants in patients with moderate to severe depression who seek treatment in primary care settings. [113]
  • For milder symptoms, the evidence is not so definitive for pharmacotherapy, thus patient preferences play a larger role. [113

Need to involve patients in care:
Primary care patients suffering from major depression who are involved in decisions about their care and receive mental health treatment (antidepressants and/or therapy) are more satisfied with their care. [114]

  • In the Quality Improvement for Depression Study, less than half (43%) of patients received appropriate care for depression (26% received antidepressants, 28% counseling, and 10% both).
  • Primary care patients who received mental health care were 1.6 times more likely to be satisfied with their care than those who did not receive such care.
  • Patients who shared decision-making with their doctors were nearly three times more likely to be satisfied with their care than those who were not involved in decisions.

Collaborative Models:
The collaborative care model appears to be the most effective for depression management in primary care and addresses system weaknesses, particularly those associated with follow-up care. [18,71,115-117]

  • It involves structured care relying more on non-medical specialists to augment primary care.
  • It seems well suited to the management of more complicated bio-psychological issues such as depression, which often also have associated co-morbidities.

Evidence supports the use of collaborative models, but little is known about which aspects of these complex interventions are essential. [118]

  • A systematic review of 37 RCTs that compared collaborative care with usual care in patients with depression showed that depression outcomes were improved at 6 months and evidence of longer-term benefit was found for up to 5 years.
  • Effect size was directly related to medication compliance and to the professional background and method of supervision of case managers.
  • The addition of brief psychotherapy did not substantially improve outcome, nor did increased numbers of sessions.
  • Predictors of favorable outcomes were shown in another review to be the systematic identification of patients, the professional background of staff (more training in mental health) and specialist supervision. [119]

Another systematic review found that adapted models of care, including quality improvement and collaborative care, are more effective than usual care in treating depression in racial and ethnic minority women. [120]

  • Although medication and psychotherapy were both effective in treating depression, low-income women generally needed case management to address related social issues.
  • Allowing patients to select the treatment of their choice (medication or psychotherapy or a combination) while providing outreach and other supportive services (case management, childcare and transportation) appear to result in optimal clinical benefits.

A systematic review of RCTs investigating the effectiveness of disease management programs (DMP) compared with usual primary care showed that DMP had a significantly better effect on depression severity. [121]

  • Patient satisfaction and adherence to the treatment regimen improved significantly.
  • DMP significantly enhance the quality of care for depression. Costs are within the range of other widely accepted public health improvements.

A systematic review of studies that investigated the effectiveness of using case management in the care of depression in primary health care found that case management improved management of major depression. [122] Case management:

  • Is more likely to achieve remission after 6-12 months [1.4 times the control group]
  • Promotes better medication adherence [1.5 times the control group]
  • Is more likely to achieve a clinical response [1.8 times control]

The challenges to improved depression care include:

Recognizing and treating a greater proportion of patients with depressive symptoms.

  • With a third to half of patients with depressive symptoms not receiving appropriate treatment, and with the negative impact on quality of life, substance abuse and the management of co-existing chronic disease – improved recognition and management is vital.

More individualized treatment plans, with greater consideration of patient preferences.

  • About 2 out of 3 patients with diagnosed depression fail to achieve remission. [123]
  • Incomplete remission is associated with increased risk of relapse, suicide, functional impairment, and higher use of health care resources.
  • Individual differences in therapeutic response contribute to inadequate treatment and are linked to numerous clinical and neurobiological factors, including noncompliance, underdosing, intolerance, disturbances in neural circuitry, and genetic variability in neurotransmitters.

Better understanding of motivational issues in counseling.

  • A systematic review showed that depressed patients are 3 times as likely to be noncompliant with medical treatment recommendations as non-depressed patients. [124]

Overcoming patients resistance to being diagnosed and treated.

  • Over half in a small qualitative study refused to accept the diagnosis. [125]
  • Contributing factors included:
    • fear of stigmatization and skepticism about the usefulness of labeling
    • feeling that depressive symptoms were a normal and transitory reaction to adversity
    • doubts about the necessity and effectiveness of treatment
  • These authors recommend soliciting the patient’s views on depression before diagnosing and offering treatment.

The PHQ-2 is a validated and reliable depression screening tool for primary care. [71]

With a positive screening, the PHQ-9 is a validated and reliable tool to diagnose and treat depression and to monitor progress. [71]

  • A score of 10 or higher is the cutoff for a clinical diagnosis of depression and as an indication of the need to begin therapy.
  • However, a clear differential diagnosis that rules out other possible causes of the depressive symptoms, including bipolar disorder, psychosis, medical conditions, etc. must be carried out prior to initiating treatment.

Assessment of suicidal risk should be included. [71]

  • A positive score on the 9th item of PHQ-9 is a red flag for suicidal risk.
  • Assessment should include:
    • What is the nature of the suicidal ideation? Is there a plan?
    • Evaluate risk factors for suicide?
        • S – Sex: Males 3x as likely to commit suicide
        • A – Age: Older > younger
        • D – Depression: 70% have depression
        • P – Previous Attempts: Multiple attempts more likely to try again, however most deaths occur on first or second attempt
        • E – Ethanol use: Self medication with increasing alcohol or drugs
        • R – Rational thinking loss: cognitive slowing, psychosis, pre-existing brain damage
        • S – Social support deficit: Social withdrawal, loss of job
        • O – Organized plan: Most have thought about a plan
        • N – No spouse: May be result rather than cause of depression
        • S – Sickness: Having a current serious illness [113a]
    • A contract for safety - in low-risk, may take the form of simply contracting with the primary care physician; in a higher-risk patient, the clinician may wish to involve a psychiatrist on an outpatient or more urgent basis

The goal of the initial treatment phase is to achieve remission either by pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, or a combination of modalities.

Success in depression management largely depends on enabling patients to be active participants in their care. [71]

  • Clinicians can help by providing educational materials or directing patients to available resources.
  • They can remind patients that depression, like asthma or diabetes, is a chronic and recurring disorder, the management of which requires their participation.
  • They can educate patients regarding their medication, letting them know that 2 to 4 weeks of drug therapy may be needed before symptoms improve and alerting them to any potential adverse effects.
  • They can remind them of the importance of taking their medication daily, continuing their medication for at least 6 months after they are feeling better, and consulting their physician if adverse effects or other problems with medication occur or before changing the dosage of or discontinuing medication.
  • Patients should be advised of the importance of eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, and obtaining enough sleep.


Management of Major Depressive Disorder in Adults
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline, May 2000

Major depression in adults in primary care.

  • Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Major depression in adults in primary care. Bloomington (MN): Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI); May 2008. 84 p. [244 references]


Preventive services for adults. Depression Screening

  • Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Preventive services for adults. Bloomington (MN): Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI); 2007 Oct. 87 p.

preventive_health_maintenance/preventive_services_for_adults/ preventive_services_for_adults__11.html


  • University of Michigan Health System. Depression. Ann Arbor (MI): University of Michigan Health System; 2005 Oct. 20 p. [3 references]

Computerized cognitive behavior therapy for depression and anxiety.

  • (NICE). Computerized cognitive behavior therapy for depression and anxiety. London (UK): National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE); 2006 Feb. 38 p. (Technology appraisal; no. 97).





AMA HEALTHIER LIFE STEPS PROGRAM: Personal Health Habits Questionnaire


Pocket guide from VA/DoD guidelines

  • Includes essential aspects of assessment and management of MDD


American Academy of Family Physicians Handout

American Psychiatric Association Handout




Alexopoulos GS, Katz IR, Reynolds CF 3rd, Carpenter D, Docherty JP; Expert Consensus Panel for Pharmacotherapy of Depressive Disorders in Older Patients. The expert consensus guideline series. Pharmacotherapy of depressive disorders in older patients. Postgrad Med. 2001 Oct;Spec No Pharmacotherapy:1-86.


American Psychiatric Association

  • Provides mental health news, on-line CME programs and legislation. Links to MEDEM for patient information.

National Institute of Mental Health

  • This government-sponsored site provides comprehensive information on the following topics: clinical trials, research and funding opportunities, and patient education materials for adults and children.

National Mental Health Association

  • Provides patient information, depression screening tool, community resources and discussion board.


National Institute of Mental Health
"Depression," a 27 page booklet about depression, and treatment. Very thorough, higher reading level
NIH Publication No. NIH-04-3561

National Institute of Mental Health
A colored, easy-to-read brochure called "Stories of Depression"
NIH Publication No. 05-5084

American Psychiatric Association/American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

  • Provides parents of children and adolescents information about pediatric depression, treatment alternatives and the latest science and research findings.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression: A Treatable Illness. NIH Publication No. 03-5299,
    March 2003. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-a-treatable-illness.shtml
    American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed. American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC. 2000.
  2. Alexopoulos GS. Depression in the elderly. Lancet. 2005;365(9475):1961-1970.
  3. Kates N, Mach M. Chronic disease management for depression in primary care: a summary of the current literature and implications for practice. Can J Psychiatry. 2007;52(2):77-85.
  4. Whooley MA, Simon GE. Managing depression in medical outpatients. N Engl J Med. 2000;343(26):1942-1950. FREE Full Text
  5. Improving Quality of Care for People With Depression. Translating Research Into Practice. Fact Sheet. AHRQ Publication No. 00-P020, January 2000. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/deprqoc.htm
  6. Pratt LA, Brody DJ. Depression in the United States Household Population, 2005-2006. NCHS Data Brief 2008 Sept, Number 7. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db07.htm
  7. Strine TW, Mokdad AH, Balluz LS et al. Depression and Anxiety in the United States: Findings From the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Psychiatr Serv 2008 Dec; 59:1383-1390
  8. Hasin DS, Goodwin RD, Stinson FS, Grant BF. Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:1097-1106.
  9. N/A
  10. 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC).
    11a. Espinoza RT, Unutzer J. Diagnosis and management of late-life depression, www.uptodate.com, accessed: 3 /1 /2009
  11. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/depression/046.html
  12. van Gool CH, Kempen GI, Penninx BW et al. Relationship between changes in depressive symptoms and unhealthy lifestyles in late middle aged and older persons: results from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Age Ageing. 2003 Jan;32(1):81-7.
  13. N/A
  14. Hasin DS, Goodwin RD, Stinson FS, Grant BF. Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcoholism and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:1097-1106.
  15. Strine TW, Mokdad AH, Balluz LS et al. Depression and Anxiety in the United States: Findings From the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Psychiatr Serv 2008 Dec; 59:1383-1390
  16. Means-Christensen A., Arnau R., Tonidandel A., et al. An efficient method of identifying major depression and panic disorder in primary care . J Behav Med. 2005;28: 565-572 .
  17. Skultety K. , Zeiss A. The treatment of depression in older adults in the primary care setting: an evidence-based review . Health Psych. 2006;25: 665-674 .
  18. Unutzer J., Katon W., Callahan C., et al. Collaborative care management of late-life depression in the primary care setting . JAMA. 2002;288: 2836-2845. Abstract/Free Full Text
  19. Scogin F., Shah A. Screening older adults for depression in primary care settings . Health Psych. 2006;25: 675-677
  20. Fairhurst K. , May C. What general practitioners find satisfying in their work: implications for health system reform. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 500-505 .
  21. Woo B. Primary care—the best job in medicine? N Engl J Med. 2006;355: 864-866. Free Full Text
  22. Karasz A., Watkins L. Conceptual models of treatment in depressed Hispanic patients. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 527-533
  23. Mohr D., Hart S., Howard I., et al. Barriers to psychotherapy among depressed and nondepressed primary care patients . Ann Behav Med. 2006;32: 254-258 .
  24. Rollman B., Belnap B., Mazumdar S., et al. Symptomatic severity of Prime-MD diagnosed episodes of panic and generalized anxiety disorder in primary care . J Gen Intern Med. 2005;20: 623-628 .
  25. Wang PS, Lane M, Olfson M, Pincus HA, Wells KB, Kessler RC. Twelve-month use of mental health services in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:629-40. 2005
  26. USPSTF. Screening for Depression. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/pocketgd08/pocketgd08.pdf
  27. N/A
  28. Weissman MM, Bruce LM, Leaf PJ, Florio LP, Holzer C III. Affective disorders. In: Robins LN, Regier DA, eds. Psychiatric Disorders in America: The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study. New York, NY: The Free Press; 1991:53-80.
  29. Kessler RC, McGonagle KA, Zhao S, Nelson C, Hughes M, Eshleman S, Kendler KS. Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51:8-19.
  30. Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Koretz D, Merikangas KR, Rush AJ, Walters EE, Wang PS, National Comorbidity Survey Replication. The epidemiology of major depressive disorder: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). JAMA. 2003;289:3095-3105. FREE FULL TEXT
  31. Dentino AN, Pieper CF, Rao MK, Currie MS, Harris T, Blazer DG, Cohen HJ. Association of interleukin-6 and other biologic variables with depression in older people living in the community. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1999;47:6-11.
  32. Insel TR, Charney DS. Research on major depression: strategies and priorities. JAMA. 2003;289:3167-3168. FREE FULL TEXT
  33. Wells KB, Stewart A, Hays RD, Burnam MA, Rogers W, Daniels M, et al. The functioning and well-being of depressed patients: Results from the Medical Outcomes Study. JAMA 262, 914-9. 1989.
  34. Wells KB and Sherbourne CD. Functioning and utility for current health of patients with depression or chronic medical conditions in managed, primary care practices. Archives of General Psychiatry 1999; 56: 897-904.
  35. Lopez AD, Murray C. The global burden of disease, 1990-2020. Nature Med 4(11):1241-3. 1998.
  36. Lenze EJ, Schulz R, Martire LM et al. The course of functional decline in older people with persistently elevated depressive symptoms: longitudinal findings from the Cardiovascular Health Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Apr;53(4):569-75.
  37. Bruce ML, Seeman TE, Merrill SS, Blazer DG. The impact of depressive symptomatology on physical disability: MacArthur Studies of Successful Aging. Am J Public Health. 1994 Nov;84(11):1796-9.
  38. Terre L. Behavioral Medicine Review: The Lifestyle Factor. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2007; 1 (3): 181-184
  39. Broadhead WE, Blazer DG, George LK, Tse CK. Depression, disability days, and days lost from work in a prospective epidemiologic survey. JAMA 21:264(19):2524-8. 1990.
  40. Wagner HR, Burns BJ, Broadhead WE, Yarnall KSH, Sigmon A, Gaynes BN. Minor depression in family practice: Functional morbidity, co-morbidity, service utilization and outcomes. Psychol Med 30:1377-90. 2000.
  41. Katon WJ. Clinical and health services relationships between major depression, depressive symptoms and general medical illness. Biol Psychiatry 54:216-26. 2003.
  42. Sesso HD, Kawachi I, Vokonas PS, Sparrow D. Depression and the risk of coronary heart disease in the Normative Aging Study. Am J Cardiol. 1998 Oct 1;82(7):851-6.
  43. Barefoot JC, Schroll M. Symptoms of depression, acute myocardial infarction, and total mortality in a
    community sample. Circulation. 1996 Jun 1;93(11):1976-80.
  44. Rutledge T, Reis VA, Linke SE, Greenberg BH, Mills PJ. Depression in heart failure a meta-analytic review of prevalence, intervention effects, and associations with clinical outcomes. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 Oct 17;48(8):1527-37.
  45. Elovainio M, Keltikangas-Järvinen L, Kivimäki M et al. Depressive symptoms and carotid artery intima-media thickness in young adults: the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study. Psychosom Med. 2005 Jul-Aug;67(4):561-7.
  46. Palinkas LA, Lee PP, Barrett-Connor E. A prospective study of Type 2 diabetes and depressive symptoms in the elderly: the Rancho Bernardo Study. Diabet Med. 2004 Nov;21(11):1185-91.
  47. Knol MJ, Twisk JW, Beekman AT, Heine RJ, Snoek FJ, Pouwer F. Depression as a risk factor for the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus. A meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2006 May;49(5):837-45.
  48. Golden SH, Williams JE, Ford DE et al, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Depressive symptoms and the risk of type 2 diabetes: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Diabetes Care. 2004 Feb;27(2):429-35.
  49. Pickering RP, Grant BF, Chou SP, Compton WM. Are overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity associated with psychopathology? Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;68(7):998-1009.
  50. Lin E., Simon G., Katzelnick D., Pearson S. Does physician education on depression management improve treatment in primary care? J Gen Intern Med. 2001;16: 614-619
    51a. Bruce ML, Ten Have TR, Reynolds CF 3rd et al. Reducing suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms in depressed older primary care patients: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004 Mar 3;291(9):1081-91.
  51. Spitzer R., Williams J., Kroenke K., et al. Utility of a new procedure for diagnosing mental disorders in primary care: the PRIME-MD 1000 study . JAMA. 1994;272: 1749-1756. Abstract
  52. Kessler D., Bennewith O., Lewis G., Sharp D. Detection of depression and anxiety in primary care: follow up study . BMJ. 2002;325: 1016-1017. Free Full Text
  53. Simon GE, VonKorff M. Recognition, management, and outcomes of depression in primary care. Arch Fam Med 1995;4:99-105.
  54. http://www.ahrq.gov/qual/nhqr07/effectiveness/mentalh/T1.092.htm
  55. Ani C, Bazargan M, Hindman D et al. Depression symptomatology and diagnosis: Discordance between patients and physicians in primary care settings. BMC Family Practice 2008; 9(1), available online at www.biomedcentral.com.
  56. Cepoiu M, McCusker J, Cole MG, Sewitch M, Belzile E, Ciampi A. Recognition of depression by non-psychiatric physicians--a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Jan;23(1):25-36.
  57. Karasz A., Watkins L. Conceptual models of treatment in depressed Hispanic patients. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 527-533
  58. Wittinik M. , Barg F., Gallo J. Unwritten rules of talking to doctors about depression: integrating qualitative and quantitative methods. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 302-309
  59. Office of the Surgeon General. Mental Health: a report of the Surgeon General. Department of Health and Human Services: Washington, DC. 1999. Available from: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/home.html.
  60. Keitner GI, Ryan CE, Solomon DA. Realistic expectations and a disease management model for depressed patients with persistent symptoms. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;67(9):1412-21.
  61. Simon GE, Khandker RK, Ichikawa L, Operskalski BH. Recovery from depression predicts lower health services costs. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Aug;67(8):1226-31.
  62. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Preventive services for adults. Bloomington (MN): Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI); 2007 Oct. 87 p.

  63. DeJesus RS, Vickers KS, Melin GJ, Williams MD. A System-Based Approach to Depression Management in Primary Care Using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Mayo Clin Proc 2007; 82(11): 1395-1402
  64. Wittkampf KA, Naeije L, Schene AH, Huyser J, van Weert HC. Diagnostic accuracy of the mood module of the Patient Health Questionnaire: a systematic review. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2007 Sep-Oct;29(5):388-95.
  65. Anderson D, Horton C: Integrating depression care with diabetes care in real-world settings: lessons from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Diabetes Initiative. Diabetes Spectrum 20:10 -16, 2007 Abstract/Free Full Text
    66a. Duffy FF, Chung H, Trivedi M et al. Systematic use of patient-rated severity monitoring: is it helpful and feasible in clinical psychiatry? Psychiatric Services 2008;59:1148-1154
    66b. Lyness JM. Depression: Clinical manifestations and diagnoses www.uptodate.com, accessed 3/1/2009
    66c. Schreiber JL, Culpepper L, Fife D. Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults, www.uptodate.com accessed: 3 /11/2009
  66. Depression Guideline Panel. Depression in Primary Care: Treatment of Major Depression. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research; 1993. Clinical Practice Guideline No. 5, Vol 2. AJCPR publication 93-0551.
    67a. American Psychiatric Association's "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder, Second Edition
    http://www.psychiatryonlirre.com/pracGuide/loadG.uaisdpexli?nfeilPed:Mf DD2e_0l 55--0 6
  67. Pignone M, Gaynes BN, Rushton JL, et al. Screening for Depression. Systematic Evidence Review No. 6 (Prepared by the Research Triangle Institute—University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-97-0011) AHRQ Publication. No. 02-S002. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, May 2002.
  68. Mulrow CD, Williams JW Jr, Chiquette E, et al. Efficacy of newer pharmacotherapies for treating depression in primary care patients. Am J Med 2000;108:54-64.
  69. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression: A Treatable Illness. NIH Publication No. 03-5299,
    March 2003. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-a-treatable-illness.shtml
    70a. Katon and Ciechanowski, Initial Treatment of Depression in Adults, www.uptodate.com, accessed 3/20/2009
    70b. Depression Guideline Panel. Depression in Primary Care: Treatment of Major Depression: Clinical Practice Guideline. US Dept of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. AHCPR publication 93-0551, Rockville, MD 1993.
  70. DeJesus RS, Vickers KS, Melin GJ, Williams MD. A System-Based Approach to Depression Management in Primary Care Using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. Mayo Clin Proc 2007; 82(11): 1395-1402
  71. Gartlehner G, Gaynes BN, Hansen RA et al. Comparative benefits and harms of second-generation antidepressants: background paper for the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Nov 18;149(10):734-50.
  72. Simon GE, VonKorff M. Recognition, management, and outcomes of depression in primary care. Arch Fam Med 1995;4:99-105.
  73. Pinquart M, Duberstein PR, Lyness JM. Treatments for later-life depressive conditions: a meta-analytic comparison of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;163(9):1493-501.
  74. de Maat S, Dekker J, Schoevers R et al. Short psychodynamic supportive psychotherapy, antidepressants, and their combination in the treatment of major depression: a mega-analysis based on three randomized clinical trials. Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(7):565-74.
    75a. Egger G, Binns A, Rossner S. Lifestyle Medicine. Sydney: McGraw-Hill, 2008, pp 170-2.
  75. Frazer CJ, Christensen H, Griffiths KM. Effectiveness of treatments for depression in older people. Med J Aust. 2005 Jun 20;182(12):627-32.
  76. Martire LM, Lustig AP, Schulz R, Miller GE, Helgeson VS. Is it beneficial to involve a family member? A meta-analysis of psychosocial interventions for chronic illness. Health Psychol. 2004 Nov;23(6):599-611.
  77. Qaseem A, Snow V, Denberg TD, Forciea MA, Owens DK; Clinical Efficacy Assessment Subcommittee of American College of Physicians. Using second-generation antidepressants to treat depressive disorders: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Nov 18;149(10):725-33.
  78. Gartlehner G, Gaynes BN, Hansen RA et al. Comparative benefits and harms of second-generation antidepressants: background paper for the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Nov 18;149(10):734-50.
  79. Gartlehner G, Thieda P, Hansen RA et al. Comparative risk for harms of second-generation antidepressants : a systematic review and meta-analysis. Drug Saf. 2008;31(10):851-65.
    80a. Taylor MJ; Freemantle N; Geddes JR; Bhagwagar Z. Early onset of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant action: systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2006 Nov;63(11):1217-23.
    80b. Trivedi MH; Rush AJ; Wisniewski SR et al. Evaluation of outcomes with citalopram for depression using measurement-based care in STAR*D: implications for clinical practice. Am J Psychiatry. 2006 Jan;163(1):28-40.
    80c. Nierenberg AA; Farabaugh AH; Alpert JE et al. Timing of onset of antidepressant response with fluoxetine treatment. Am J Psychiatry 2000 Sep;157(9):1423-8.
    80d. Snow V; Lascher S; Mottur-Pilson C. Pharmacologic treatment of acute major depression and dysthymia. American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine. Ann Intern Med 2000 May 2;132(9):738-42.
  80. Krebs EE, Gaynes BN, Gartlehner G et al. Treating the physical symptoms of depression with second-generation antidepressants: a systematic review and metaanalysis. Psychosomatics. 2008 May-Jun;49(3):191-8.
  81. Bortolotti B, Menchetti M, Bellini F, Montaguti MB, Berardi D. Psychological interventions for major depression in primary care: a meta-analytic review of randomized controlled trials. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2008 Jul-Aug;30(4):293-302.
  82. Ekers D, Richards D, Gilbody S. A meta-analysis of randomized trials of behavioural treatment of depression. Psychol Med. 2008 May;38(5):611-23.
  83. Bosmans JE, van Schaik DJ, de Bruijne MC et al. Are psychological treatments for depression in primary care cost-effective? J Ment Health Policy Econ. 2008 Mar;11(1):3-15.
  84. Cuijpers P, Smit F, van Straten A. Psychological treatments of subthreshold depression: a meta-analytic review. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2007 Jun;115(6):434-41.
  85. Cuijpers P, van Straten A, Smit F, Mihalopoulos C, Beekman A. Preventing the onset of depressive disorders: a meta-analytic review of psychological interventions. Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Oct;165(10):1272-80.
  86. Stathopoulou G., Powers M., Berry A., et al. Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review . Clin Psychol Sci Prac. 2006;13: 179-193 .
  87. Seime R., Vickers K. The challenges of treating depression with exercise: from evidence to practice . Clin Psychol Sci Prac. 2006;13: 194-197 .
  88. Smith T. Blood, sweat, and tears: exercise in the management of mental and physical health problems . Clin Psychol Sci Prac. 2006; 13: 198-202 .
  89. Martinsen E. , Raglin J. Anxiety/depression: lifestyle medicine approaches . Am J Lifestyle Med. 2007;1: 159-166 .
  90. van Gool C. , Kempen G., Penninx B., et al. Relationship between changes in depressive symptoms and unhealthy lifestyles in late middle aged and older persons: results from the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam. Age Ageing. 2003;32: 81-87. Abstract/Free Full Text
  91. Bonnet F., Irving K., Terra J., et al. Anxiety and depression are associated with unhealthy lifestyle in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease . Atherosclerosis . 2005;178: 339-344 .
  92. Bonnet F., Irving K., Terra J., et al. Depressive symptoms are associated with unhealthy lifestyles in hypertensive patients with the metabolic syndrome . J Hypertens. 2005;23: 611-617
  93. Terre L. Behavioral Medicine Review: The Lifestyle Factor. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2007; 1 (3): 181-184
  94. Broocks A. [Physical training in the treatment of psychological disorders] Bundesgesundheitsblatt Gesundheitsforschung Gesundheitsschutz. 2005 Aug;48(8):914-21.
  95. Mead GE, Morley W, Campbell P, Greig CA, McMurdo M, Lawlor DA. Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD004366.
  96. Jorm AF, Morgan AJ, Hetrick SE. Relaxation for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD007142.
  97. Grossman P, Niemann L, Schmidt S, Walach H. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits. A meta-analysis. J Psychosom Res. 2004 Jul;57(1):35-43.
  98. Nunes EV, Levin FR. Treatment of depression in patients with alcohol or other drug dependence: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2004 Apr 21;291(15):1887-96.
  99. Torrens M, Fonseca F, Mateu G, Farré M. Efficacy of antidepressants in substance use disorders with and without comorbid depression. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Apr 4;78(1):1-22.
  100. Von Korff M. Improving outcomes in depression (Editorial). BMJ 2001;323:948-949 http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/323/7319/948
  101. Gilbody S, Sheldon T, House A. Screening and case-finding instruments for depression: a meta-analysis. CMAJ. 2008 Apr 8;178(8):997-1003.
  102. Wagner EH, Austin BT, Von Korff M. Organizing care for patients with chronic illness. Milbank Q 1996; 74: 511-544.
  103. Katon W, Von Korff M, Lin E, Simon G. Rethinking practitioner roles in chronic illness: the specialist, primary care physician, and the practice nurse. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2001; 23: 138-144.
  104. Von Korff M, Tiemens B. Individualized stepped care of chronic illness. West J Med 2000; 172: 133-137
  105. Wittinik M. , Barg F., Gallo J. Unwritten rules of talking to doctors about depression: integrating qualitative and quantitative methods. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 302-309 .
  106. Hacker K., Myagmarjav E., Harris V., et al. Mental health screening in pediatric practice: factors related to positive screens and the contribution of parental/personal concern . Pediatrics. 2006;118: 1896-1906. Abstract/Free Full Text
  107. Keitner GI, Ryan CE, Solomon DA. Realistic expectations and a disease management model for depressed patients with persistent symptoms. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;67(9):1412-21.
    108a. Rush AJ, Trivedi MH, Wisniewski SR et al. Acute and longer term outcome in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report. Am J Psychiatry 2006;163:1905-1917
  108. Davidson K., Kupfer D., Bigger J., et al. Assessment and treatment of depression in patients with cardiovascular disease: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Working Group Report . Ann Behav Med. 2006;32: 121-126 .
  109. Hroscikoski M. , Solberg L., Sperl-Hillen J., et al. Challenges of change: a qualitative study of chronic care model implementation. Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 317-326 .
  110. Solberg L., Crain A., Sperl-Hillen J., et al. Care quality and implementation of the chronic care model: a quantitative study . Ann Fam Med. 2006;4: 310-316. Abstract/Free Full Text
  111. Lin P., Campbell D., Chaney E., et al. The influence of patient preference on depression treatment in primary care . Ann Behav Med. 2005;30: 164-173
  112. Barbui C, Tansella M. Identification and management of depression in primary care settings. A meta-review of evidence. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc. 2006 Oct-Dec;15(4):276-83.
    113a. https://www.qmo.amedd.army.mil/depress/rev_assessment_referral_criteria1.doc: Accessed 3-16-09
  113. Swanson KA, Bastani M, Rubenstein LV et al. Effect of mental health care and shared decision making on patient satisfaction in a community sample of patients with depression. Medical Care Research and Review 2007; 64(4): 416-430.
  114. Frasure-Smith N., Lesperance F. Depression—a cardiac risk factor in search of a treatment . JAMA. 2003;289: 3171-3173. Free Full Text
  115. Lin P., Campbell D., Chaney E., et al. The influence of patient preference on depression treatment in primary care . Ann Behav Med. 2005;30: 164-173 .
  116. Starfield B., Lemke K., Bernhardt T., et al. Comorbidity: implications for the importance of primary care in `case' management. Ann Fam Med. 2003;1: 8-14
  117. Gilbody S, Bower P, Fletcher J, Richards D, Sutton AJ. Collaborative care for depression: a cumulative meta-analysis and review of longer-term outcomes. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Nov 27;166(21):2314-21.
  118. Bower P, Gilbody S, Richards D, Fletcher J, Sutton A. Collaborative care for depression in primary care. Making sense of a complex intervention: systematic review and meta-regression. Br J Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;189:484-93.
  119. Ward EC. Examining differential treatment effects for depression in racial and ethnic minority women: a qualitative systematic review. J Natl Med Assoc. 2007 Mar;99(3):265-74.
  120. Neumeyer-Gromen A, Lampert T, Stark K, Kallischnigg G. Disease management programs for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Med Care. 2004 Dec;42(12):1211-21.
  121. Gensichen J, Beyer M, Muth C, Gerlach FM, Von Korff M, Ormel J. Case management to improve major depression in primary health care: a systematic review. Psychol Med. 2006 Jan;36(1):7-14.
  122. Trivedi MH, Hollander E, Nutt D, Blier P. Clinical evidence and potential neurobiological underpinnings of unresolved symptoms of depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Feb;69(2):246-58.
  123. DiMatteo MR, Lepper HS, Croghan TW. Depression Is a Risk Factor for Noncompliance With Medical Treatment Meta-analysis of the Effects of Anxiety and Depression on Patient Adherence.
    Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:2101-2107.
  124. Wittkampf KA, van Zwieten M, Smits FTh, Schene AH, Huyser J, van Weert HC. Patients’ view on screening for depression in general practice. Family Practice 2008; 25: 438–444.


Copyright 2009 American College of Preventive Medicine. All Rights Reserved.

Membership Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal