Effect of Collaborative Care vs Usual Care on Depressive Symptoms in Older Adults With Subthreshold Depression The CASPER Randomized Clinical Trial

Key Points

Question  Is collaborative care an effective method to reduce depressive symptoms in older people with mild depression?

Findings  In the CASPER randomized trial of 705 participants aged 65 years or older with subthreshold depression, those randomized to a collaborative care intervention had lower depression scores as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire 9-item survey at 4-month follow-up compared with usual care.

Meaning  Among older adults with subthreshold depression, a collaborative care intervention reduced depressive symptoms at 4-month follow-up compared with usual care. The long-term efficacy of this intervention is unclear.


Importance  There is little evidence to guide management of depressive symptoms in older people.

Objective  To evaluate whether a collaborative care intervention can reduce depressive symptoms and prevent more severe depression in older people.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Randomized clinical trial conducted from May 24, 2011, to November 14, 2014, in 32 primary care centers in the United Kingdom among 705 participants aged 65 years or older with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition) subthreshold depression; participants were followed up for 12 months.

Interventions  Collaborative care (n=344) was coordinated by a case manager who assessed functional impairments relating to mood symptoms. Participants were offered behavioral activation and completed an average of 6 weekly sessions. The control group received usual primary care (n=361).

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was self-reported depression severity at 4-month follow-up on the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9; score range, 0-27). Included among 10 prespecified secondary outcomes were the PHQ-9 score at 12-month follow-up and the proportion meeting criteria for depressive disorder (PHQ-9 score ≥10) at 4- and 12-month follow-up.

Results  The 705 participants were 58% female with a mean age of 77 (SD, 7.1) years. Four-month retention was 83%, with higher loss to follow-up in collaborative care (82/344 [24%]) vs usual care (37/361 [10%]). Collaborative care resulted in lower PHQ-9 scores vs usual care at 4-month follow-up (mean score with collaborative care, 5.36 vs with usual care, 6.67; mean difference, −1.31; 95% CI, −1.95 to −0.67; P < .001). Treatment differences remained at 12 months (mean PHQ-9 score with collaborative care, 5.93 vs with usual care, 7.25; mean difference, −1.33; 95% CI, −2.10 to −0.55). The proportions of participants meeting criteria for depression at 4-month follow-up were 17.2% (45/262) vs 23.5% (76/324), respectively (difference, −6.3% [95% CI, −12.8% to 0.2%]; relative risk, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.61-1.27]; P = .25) and at 12-month follow-up were 15.7% (37/235) vs 27.8% (79/284) (difference, −12.1% [95% CI, −19.1% to −5.1%]; relative risk, 0.65 [95% CI, 0.46-0.91]; P = .01).

Conclusions and Relevance  Among older adults with subthreshold depression, collaborative care compared with usual care resulted in a statistically significant difference in depressive symptoms at 4-month follow-up, of uncertain clinical importance. Although differences persisted through 12 months, findings are limited by attrition, and further research is needed to assess longer-term efficacy.

Trial Registration  isrctn.org Identifier: ISRCTN02202951

JAMA. 2017;317(7):728-737


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