There are a few important holes in this story.
Many questions have been raised about the safety and effectiveness of SSRI medications for depression. It’s not clear that this story – or the study on which it’s based – clear up many of those questions.
It’s also worth noting that the question of benefit for the personality changes is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly in American culture, being more positive and outgoing is generally perceived as a good thing. But that is not necessarily true in all cultures.
While the story mentions how much the US spends on antidepressants and generally discusses "cost-effectiveness" questions, it never describes the cost of these medications for the individual.
We’ve already commented in the "Evidence" criterion about how we think the story partially miscommunicated the study’s findings. In addition, the story quantified the benefits for how antidepressant use may have impacted peoples’ responses on the neuroticism scale, but not for the extroversion scale.
And what happened on the other three traits of the five mentioned at the beginning of the story? Yet the story goes on to talk about the potential for using all five of the "big five" traits – without any evidence to back up that projection:
For these reasons, we think the discussion was incomplete.
There was no discussion of the potential for harms from using these antidepressants – a significant oversight.
The story stated:
We also wish the story had placed the findings in context with the broader literature in regards to effects of SSRI drugs and cognitive therapy (CT) on depressive symptoms. In the short term they appear comparable but CT takes a little longer to take effect. Longer term – some evidence suggests CT may have a longer lasting effect. The story also didn’t comment on the relatively short term of the study.
There was no overt disease mongering of depression in the story.
The story used several sources, one of whom injected some skepticism about intepreting or applying the findings.
The story stuck to the findings reported in the study and, in so doing, gave a brief comparison of antidepressant medicaltions with psychotherapy.
The widespread use of the antidepressants in question is clear from the story.
The story did an adequate job of placing the new results into the context of the body of work on antidepressants and personality.
Because of the use of numerous sources, it’s clear to us that the story did not rely on a news release.