£2.4m study tackling depression

Researchers are looking to develop new psychological therapies to manage levels of depression among older people suffering long-term physical illness.

Professor Andrew Hill and Dr Gemma Traviss-Turner, who are leading the Leeds part of the five-year study. Picture by Phil Faulks

£2.4m study tackling depression among older people with chronic ill health August 2018

According to the NHS, about four million people in England have both physical and mental health conditions. Older people with more than one physical health condition are at three times the risk of experiencing depression.

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds and York are involved in a £2.4 million study, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, to identify whether specially-adapted ‘talking therapies’ could be used to help manage people’s mental wellbeing.

Dr Gemma Traviss-Turner, Lecturer in Primary Care, and Andrew Hill, Professor of Medical Psychology, will be leading the Leeds part of the five-year study.

Dr Traviss-Turner said: “Having both physical and mental health conditions can be devastating for older individuals. Together they are linked with poorer quality of life, more referrals to GP and hospital services and, in some cases, there is a higher risk of death.

“The costs are not only personal. Unplanned hospitals admissions linked with these health conditions significantly increases the cost of care.”

It’s estimated the cost to the NHS of treating and caring for older people, who are both physically and mentally unwell, amounts to about £13 billion a year.

This research will look at whether a talking therapy called ‘behavioural activation’ can be adapted to improve a patient’s mental wellbeing and physical functioning.

Behavioural activation is a process where people who have become isolated through feelings of low mood and depression are encouraged to become socially and mentally active.

The trial will involve 572 patients from GP practices across Leeds, York and Durham.

Professor David Ekers and Simon Gilbody, from the University of York, will lead the study overall.

Professor Ekers said: “We regularly hear of the growing challenge to meet the needs of older adults with complex physical and psychological healthcare problems.

“This programme offers the opportunity to develop and test a practical, acceptable treatment that builds on what we can see works for depression in similar groups.

“If we find our new treatment works and can be applied across NHS settings, this could be of substantial value in the coming years to patients and the NHS alike.”

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