The hormonal therapy known as DHEA appears to be an effective treatment of midlife-onset minor and major depression, says research in the journal The Archives of General Psychiatry. DHEA has previously been reported to have antidepressant-like effects and this study was designed to evaluate DHEA as a treatment for depression with a midlife onset.
Study leader Peter J. Schmidt, from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, evaluated 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. They were randomly assigned to either receive six weeks of DHEA therapy or six weeks of placebo treatment. In 23 patients, a 50 percent reduction in the baseline of their score on a depression rating scale was observed after DHEA.
A reduction in depression rating was only recorded in 13 patients after placebo. Six weeks of DHEA treatment was associated with significant improvements in measures of depression and sexual functioning, the researchers found.
"At present, there are no predictors of response, and with a 50 percent response rate one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition. However, in the 50 percent of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatment, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression," the researchers concluded.