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Screening for Depression

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The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Guidelines

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that primary care doctors screen their adult patients for depression if they have a system in place to support these patients (such as case management or mental health treatment). There are a number of different questionnaires to screen for depression. One example of screening is using two simple questions:

  • Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
  • Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?

The US Preventive Services Task Force also found some indication that office screening tools may be accurate in identifying depressed adolescents aged 12-18 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians ask questions about depression in routine history-taking throughout adolescence.

Revision Information

  • Depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 19, 2012. Accessed July 30, 2012.

  • Screening for depression in adults. US Preventative Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf09/adultdepression/addeprrs.htm. Published December 2009. Accessed July 31, 2012.

    Screening for depression in children and adolescents. US Preventative Services Task Force website. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschdepr.htm. Published March 2009. Accessed September 4, 2013