Comparison of the Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression among Older Versus Younger Veterans: Results of a National Evaluation

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Abstract

Objectives.

The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression (CBT-D) among older adults in routine clinical settings has received limited attention. The current article examines and compares outcomes of older versus younger veterans receiving CBT-D nationally.

Method.

Patient outcomes were assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory-II and World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF. Therapeutic alliance was assessed using the Working Alliance Inventory-Short Revised.

Results.

A total of 764 veterans aged 18-64 and 100 veterans aged 65+ received CBT-D; 68.0% of older and 68.3% of younger patients completed all sessions or finished early due to symptom relief, and mean depression scores declined from 27.0 (standard deviation [SD] = 10.7) to 16.2 (SD = 12.4) in the older group and from 29.1 (SD = 11.2) to 17.8 (SD = 13.5) in the younger group. Within-group effect sizes were d = 1.01 for both groups. Significant increases in quality of life and therapeutic alliance were observed for both groups.

Discussion.

CBT-D resulted in significant improvements in depression and quality of life among older patients. Outcomes and rate of attrition were equivalent to younger patients. Findings indicate that CBT-D is an effective and acceptable treatment for older veterans in real-world settings with often high levels of depression.

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