Depression is common amongst older people, with one in seven meeting the criteria for full-blown depression. Older people at the greatest risk of depression are those who suffer from loneliness and long-term illnesses, both of which affect this age group disproportionately.
Being depressed can also make health problems worse and older people with depression are at an increased risk of dying. The SHARD clinical trial focussed on older people with lower-severity symptoms who are at the highest risk of becoming clinically depressed.
We developed an innovative treatment for older people (aged 65 or over) with depression symptoms. This treatment consisted of a self-help booklet which we designed using the principles of an evidence-based psychological therapy called Behavioural Activation. The booklet is called 'Helping you to maintain a positive mood in older age: a self-help workbook'© and is 20 pages long. People who received the booklet also received up to three telephone calls designed to check that the materials had arrived and to offer practical advice and encouragement to use the materials. In addition all participants received the usual care from their GP.
We then tested the treatment by comparing it with usual GP care. Each person taking part was given one type of care. This was decided by chance, like the roll of a dice. We then compared how people who received the self-help booklet fared, compared to those who received usual GP care alone.
We are currently examining the results of this trial and writing them up ready for publication.
SHARD was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Its formal title is the Self Help for those At Risk of Depression (SHARD) trial. Its funder reference number is 08/19/04. We received ethics approval from Leeds East Research Ethics Committee. SHARD is registered with the ISRCTN Registry and its number is ISRCTN95270332.