• depressive disorder;
  • aged;
  • quality of life;
  • antidepressive agents;
  • psychotherapy

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy and interpersonal psychotherapy sustain gains in health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) achieved during short-term treatment in older patients with depression.

DESIGN: After open combined treatment with paroxetine and interpersonal psychotherapy, responders were randomly assigned to a two (paroxetine vs placebo) by two (monthly interpersonal psychotherapy vs clinical management) double-blind, placebo-controlled maintenance trial. HR-QOL outcomes were assessed over 1 year.

SETTING: University-based clinic.

PATIENTS: Of the referred sample of 363 persons aged 70 and older with major depression, 210 gave consent, and 195 started acute treatment; 116 met criteria for recovery, entered maintenance treatment, and were included in this analysis.

INTERVENTIONS: Paroxetine; monthly manual-based interpersonal psychotherapy.

MEASUREMENTS: Overall HR-QOL as measured using the Quality of Well-Being Scale (QWB) and six specific HR-QOL domains derived from the Medical Outcomes Study 36-item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) subscales.

RESULTS: All domains of HR-QOL except physical functioning improved with successful acute and continuation treatment. After controlling for any effects of psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy was superior to placebo in preserving overall well-being (P=.04, effect size (r)=0.23), social functioning (P=.02, r=0.27), and role limitations due to emotional problems (P=.007, r=0.30). Interpersonal psychotherapy (controlling for the effects of pharmacotherapy) did not preserve HR-QOL better than supportive clinical management.

CONCLUSION: Maintenance antidepressant pharmacotherapy is superior to placebo in preserving improvements in overall well-being achieved with treatment response in late-life depression. No such benefit was seen with interpersonal psychotherapy.