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Keywords:

  • depression;
  • problem solving therapy;
  • veteran;
  • mental health functioning

Objective

We conducted a pilot study comparing problem solving therapy for primary care (PST-PC) to a dietary education control condition in middle-aged and older veterans with symptoms of emotional distress and subsyndromal depression.

Methods

This was a two-site study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Participants included veterans >50 years of age referred from primary care clinics who were eligible if they obtained a pre-screen score >11 on the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale. Exclusions were a DSM-IV Major Depressive Episode within the past year, active substance abuse/dependence within 1 month, current antidepressant therapy, and a Mini mental status exam score <24. Participants were randomized to receive one of two interventions—either PST-PC or an attention control condition consisting of dietary education (DIET)—each consisting of six to eight sessions within a 4-month period.

Results

Of 45 individuals randomized, 23 (11 PST-PC and 12 DIET) completed treatment. Using regression models in completers that examined outcomes at end of treatment while controlling for baseline scores, there were significant differences between treatment groups in SF-36 mental health component scores but not in depressive symptoms (as assessed with either the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression or the Beck Depression Inventory), social problem solving skills, or physical health status (SF-36 physical health component score).

Conclusions

These pilot study findings suggest that a six-to-eight session version of PST-PC may lead to improvements in mental health functioning in primary care veterans with subsyndromal depressive symptoms. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.