Is psychotherapy for depression equally effective in younger and older adults? A meta-regression analysis

Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Feb;21(1):16-24. doi: 10.1017/S1041610208008089. Epub 2008 Dec 1.


Background: It is well established that psychotherapy is effective in the treatment of depression in younger as well as in older adults. Whether these psychotherapies are equally effective in younger and older age groups has not been examined in meta-analytic research.

Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search and included 112 studies with 170 comparisons between a psychotherapy and a control group (with a total of 7,845 participants). Twenty studies with 26 comparisons were aimed at older adults.

Results: We found no indication that psychotherapies were more or less effective for older adults compared to younger adults. The effect sizes of both groups of comparisons did not differ significantly from each other (older adults: d = 0.74; 95% CI: 0.49-0.99; younger adults: d = 0.67; 95% CI: 0.58-0.76). In a multivariate meta-regression analysis, in which we controlled for major characteristics of the participants, the interventions and the study designs, no indication of a difference between psychotherapy in younger and older adults was found.

Conclusions: There appears to be no significant difference between psychotherapy in younger and older adults, although it is not clear whether this is also true for clinical samples, patients with more severe depression, and the older old.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult