Background: Health utility is the recommended outcome metric for medical cost-effectiveness studies. We compared health utility and quality of life for primary care patients with depression or chronic medical conditions.
Methods: Respondents were outpatients (N = 17 558) of primary care clinicians (N = 181) in 7 managed care organizations. Utility was assessed by time tradeoff, or the years of life that patients would exchange for perfect health, and standard gamble, or the required chance of success to accept a treatment that can cause immediate death or survival in perfect health. Probable 12-month depressive disorder and affective syndromes were assessed through self-report items from a diagnostic interview. Medical conditions were assessed with self-report. Quality of life was assessed by the 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey. Regression models were used to compare quality of life and utility for patients with depression vs chronic medical conditions.
Results: Patients with probable 12-month depressive disorder had worse mental health and role-emotional and social functioning and lower utility for their current health than patients with each chronic medical condition (for most comparisons, P<.001). Depressed patients had worse physical functioning than patients with 4 common chronic conditions but better physical functioning than patients with 4 other conditions (each P<.001). Patients with lifetime bipolar illness and 12-month double depression had the poorest quality of life and lowest utility.
Conclusions: Primary care patients with depressive conditions have poorer mental, role-emotional, and social functioning than patients with common chronic medical conditions, and physical functioning in the midrange. The low utility of depressed patients relative to patients with chronic medical conditions suggests that recovery from depression should be a high practice priority.