Health Buzz: Antidepressants Not Very Effective for Mild Depression

Avoiding chickenpox vaccine has consequences; 5 barely noticeable New Year’s resolutions.

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Antidepressants Not Very Effective for Mild Depression

If you think you need an antidepressant because "things just don't feel like they used to," as a TV ad for the antidepressant Zoloft describes it, you might want to think again. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that some of the more popular drugs work no better than a placebo in those with mild or even moderate symptoms of depression, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz reports.

The drugs studied—one of the many selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and a different, older type of medication—were, however, very effective at lifting depression in people with very severe symptoms. "Consumers may not be aware that the efficacy of [these] medications largely has been established on the basis of studies that have included only those individuals with more severe forms of depression," the study authors write. Unfortunately, primary care physicians who prescribe antidepressants often don't take the time to tease out the very severe cases from the milder ones, says study coauthor Robert DeRubeis, a professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. Most antidepressant trials, DeRubeis says, included only patients with severe or very severe depression, and the beneficial results measured don't apply to those with milder cases. Read more.

[Slide Show: 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Fill That Prescription.] [Read How to Get the Right Diagnosis: Why Doctors Goof and Treating Depression When Medication Fails.]

Avoiding Chickenpox Vaccine Has Consequences, Study Finds

The vaccine against chickenpox is the one parents are most likely to refuse for their children, probably because the disease itself is usually relatively mild compared with killers like polio and smallpox. That, and the fact that many parents know that if their kid is the only one in the school who hasn't been vaccinated, she will still benefit from the "herd immunity" provided by the other children.

But the trend toward parents refusing chickenpox (aka varicella) vaccine means more sick kids, U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute writes. Children who didn't receive the vaccine were nine times as likely to get the disease as were similar children who did get vaccinated, according to researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Research in Colorado.

That might sound like a big "duh." Vaccines are supposed to keep kids from getting sick, after all. But the study authors, writing in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, say the results are relevant, providing "evidence to counter the misperception among some parents that unvaccinated children are not at risk for vaccine-preventable disease." Read more.

[Read What's Behind Latest Phobia Towards Vaccines? and A Parents' Guide to Managing Vaccinations.]

5 Barely Noticeable New Year's Resolutions

Half of Americans break their resolutions in the first six months, and just 10 percent stick with them throughout the year. But you can improve your health with tiny healthful lifestyle tweaks—so barely noticeable that you won't be tempted to untweak them. U.S. News offers 5 barely noticeable New Year's resolutions

The list includes taking a vitamin D supplement. During the winter, skin doesn't churn out plentiful amounts of vitamin D from sun exposure, so taking a supplement can help keep your bones and immune system strong. Vitamin D experts all agree that the recommended daily intake needs to be raised and are currently drawing up new guidelines. Popping one small pill a day takes little effort, and 100 tablets of 1,000 IUs of vitamin D will cost you less than $5. Read more.

[Read How Much Vitamin D Should You Be Taking?] [Slide Show: 10 New Year's Resolutions That Can Improve Your Health in 2010.]

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