The study tracked work productivity and depression symptoms in 331 patients with major depression through intervals of six weeks, three months, and seven months after they started medication.

The researchers found that medications improved work productivity of most participants but that those whose productivity increased more quickly showed more significant reduction in their depression symptoms and were more likely to recover over the long term.

These findings suggest that patients treated for depression and who are still having work productivity issues may need additional treatments such as exercise or cognitive therapy to overcome depression in the long term, said senior author Madhukar Trivedi, Professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, gives new insight to specific aspects of depression that are not commonly evaluated, including work productivity, cognitive function, and motivation.

These insights in turn provide added urgency for doctors to personalise treatment -- beyond simply prescribing antidepressants -- to accelerate the path to recovery.

"Those who do not show early improvement in work productivity are a different group of patients than those who do," Trivedi said.

"Finding the precise formula that works for each patient will be a key part of future research -- tailoring treatment for the individual patient," he said.

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