Effects of psychotherapy and other behavioral interventions on clinically depressed older adults: A meta-analysis

M. Pinquart, P. R. Duberstein, J. M. Lyness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

167 Scopus citations


Objectives: The goal of the present study was to assess the effects of psychotherapy and other behavioral interventions on depressive symptoms in clinically depressed older patients. Methods: We used meta-analysis to examine the effects of 57 controlled intervention studies. Results: On average, self-rated depression improved by d=0.84 standard deviation units and clinician-rated depression improved by d=0.93. Effect sizes were large for cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) and reminiscence; and medium for psychodynamic therapy, psychoeducation, physical exercise and supportive interventions. Age differences in treatment effects were not observed. Weaker effects were found in studies that used an active control group and in studies of physically ill or cognitively impaired patients. Studies of samples comprised exclusively of patients suffering from major depression (versus other mood disorders) also yielded weaker intervention effects. On average, 18.9% of participants did not complete the intervention, with higher dropout rates reported in group (versus individual) interventions and in longer interventions. Conclusions: We conclude that cognitive-behavioral therapy and reminiscence are particularly well-established and acceptable forms of depression treatment. Interventions with 7-12 sessions may optimize effectiveness while minimizing dropout rates. For physically and cognitively impaired patients, modifications in treatment format and/or content might be useful, such as combining psychotherapy with social work interventions and pharmacotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-657
Number of pages13
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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