European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 397–403 | Cite as

Who is diagnosed as suffering from depression in the German statutory health care system? An analysis of health insurance data

  • Anke Bramesfeld
  • Thomas G. Grobe
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz
Psychiatric Epidemiology



Depressive disease is becoming increasingly relevant in industrialised countries. For public health policy and planning it is important to know about the epidemiology of this disease as well as the extent to which this epidemiology impacts on health service provision.


Analysis of data from a major German statutory health insurance company: Longitudinal micro-level claims data containing information about diagnoses obtained from inpatient and outpatient sources as well as information collected from prescriptions issued for antidepressants. Data was analysed with regard to the differences in drug utilisation and the risk of being diagnosed with depression according to age, sex, marital status and area of residence.


Results correspond significantly with the findings of population surveys on depression epidemiology. They also confirm the finding of a lower prevalence of depression in East Germany compared to West Germany. However, the claims data revealed an unexpectedly high prevalence of depression diagnosis in older age groups.


Statutory health insurance data seems to be a reliable source of epidemiological information that is both easily accessible and longitudinally available, and thus provides important information that is needed for health policy and service planning.

With regard to service provision it should be considered that depression in old age is a greater problem than is suggested by most epidemiological surveys.


Depression Epidemiology Health Insurance Data Health Service Use Outpatient Care 



Declaration of interest: Thomas G. Grobe received funding to analyse the data provided by the Gmünder Ersatzkasse. Anke Bramesfeld and Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz have no conflicting interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anke Bramesfeld
    • 1
  • Thomas G. Grobe
    • 2
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department for Epidemiology, Social Medicine and Health System Research, OE 5410Hannover Medical SchoolHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health System ResearchHannoverGermany

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