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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers: Study Finds that Many People Face Depression Over the Last Year of Life

A recent Rutgers-led study finds that many terminally ill people – particularly women, young adults, minorities and low-income individuals – experience symptoms of depression in the last few months of their lives, and that quality end-of-life psychological care is needed to address this growing trend.

“Psychological symptoms are important to address throughout the lifespan of people, but especially in the context of serious or chronic illness, it is critical to reduce suffering and distress to help individuals experience a ‘good death,’” said lead author Dr. Elissa Kozlov, instructor at the Rutgers School of Public Health and a faculty member at the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research.

Researchers found varying rates of symptoms of depression among different groups of people. Women reported higher rates of depression symptoms than men, while younger adults diagnosed with severe illnesses reported high depression.

Patients with cancer reported an increase in symptoms of depression during the final year with the severity increasing in the final months while individuals with lung disease and activities of daily living impairments showed persistently high depression throughout the entire year before death. These different trajectories in symptom severity imply that different treatments may be more beneficial for different populations.

Researchers also found differences in symptoms of depression at end of life for different racial groups. Non-white people reported more depressive symptoms in the last month of life, received less hospice care, had more aggressive medical treatments and reported poor communication among health providers as compared to their white counterparts.

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