Peer support appears to be a low-cost and effective way to reduce depression symptoms, according to a new study by the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System.
Programs in which patients received support from volunteers were found to reduce depression symptoms better than traditional care alone and were about as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy, the researchers found.
The article also points out that peer support has been found to decrease isolation, reduce stress, increase the sharing of health information and provide role models.
Since peer support programs involve the use of volunteers and non-professionals and be done over the phone or Internet they are also low-cost to implement.
"As a field, we should be looking at how to integrate peer support components into primary care and specialty treatment of depression," said lead author Paul Pfeiffer, M.D., M.S., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and a researcher at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
The study findings were recently published online ahead of print in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.
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