Depression affects an estimated 5% of the world population, according to the WHO, and is the leading cause of disability for both male and female workers (though it affects women 50% more than men). Despite its ubiquity, the disease is complex to understand, and to treat. The latest family of antidepressants was developed in the 1980s and drugs today, while improved, haven’t changed substantially since then.
And there are a variety of drugs to choose from (at least 18 medications in several different brands and preparations), which can make it difficult for doctors to select the optimal treatment for a patient.
Gregor Hasler, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Bern, told Quartz that most therapies for depression are decided on by trial-and-error: in about 30% patients, the first drug prescribed is effective, but for the remaining 70% it can take anywhere from weeks to years to find a successful therapy.
A new study, which Hasler co-authored with his…