June 6, 2019  Print

A new study from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research has shown that a self-reported assessment of anxiety may effectively predict poorer treatment outcomes in people with depression.

Lead researcher Taylor Braund.

Depression and anxiety present together in half of people who seek treatment, however, there is no standard method of measuring anxiety to predict how a patient will respond.

Researchers compared current assessment methods to determine which method could predict if a patient would respond poorly to antidepressant treatments.

Lead researcher, Mr Taylor Braund said, “We evaluated the effectiveness of several assessment methods in predicting treatment outcome using data from one of the largest biomarker studies in the world for depression – the international Study to Predict Optimised Treatment in Depression or ‘iSPOT-D’.

“We found that the anxiety scale from the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) – a self-reported assessment – was the only assessment method that predicted a poor response to treatment.

“In particular, somatic or physical anxiety symptoms like chest pains and shakiness were linked to poorer outcomes from treatment with antidepressants.

“Together, these findings put forward a strong case for the wider use of the DASS in the assessment and management of people with depression.”

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide1. While there are treatments available, not all treatments will work for all patients.

“There isn’t one antidepressant or treatment regime that will benefit everyone with depression. Treatment for depression can involve trial and error,” Mr Braund said.

“It’s important that patients have access to the right treatment as soon as possible to ensure their symptoms are managed effectively, and that they can experience a better quality of life.

“Our research suggests that the DASS could be an effective method of assessing anxiety in patients with depression that will respond poorly to antidepressant treatments.

“Identifying anxiety early can help clinicians produce tailored treatment plans, resulting in better outcomes for the patient.”

The research papers were published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry: https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867419835933 and Psychological Medicine: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291719000941.

Mr Taylor Braund is a PhD student at The University of Sydney and The Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

1 The World Health Organization https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression