All adults in the US should be screened for depression at doctor’s visits. This is according to a draft recommendation issued by the US Preventive Services Task Force.

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The new USPSTF recommendation states all adults should be screened for depression via a health questionnaire.

It is estimated that around 1 in 10 Americans experience depression at some point in their lives. Major depression affects almost 7% of the US population, with women more likely to develop the condition than men.

Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, reduced energy, insomnia, thoughts of death and suicide and suicide attempts.

Depression can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, and it is the leading cause of disability among individuals in the US aged 15 and older.

At present, the most commonly used tool for screening patients for depression is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). It requires patients to answer nine questions – such as, “Over the last 2 weeks, have you been feeling tired or having little energy?” – with the aim of pinpointing any indicators of depression.

A previous recommendation from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in 2009 stated that adults should be screened in doctors offices “when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place, and selective screening based on professional judgment and patient preferences when such support is not available.”

However, the latest recommendation from the USPSTF states that doctors should now screen all adults aged 18 and older using the PHQ.

“In recognition that such support is now much more widely available and accepted as part of mental health care, the current recommendation statement has omitted the recommendation regarding selective screening, as it is no longer representative of current clinical practice,” the expert panel say in their draft recommendation statement.

What is more, the USPSTF now recommend depression screening specifically for pregnant and postpartum women – populations they say were not reviewed when making the 2009 recommendation.

In reaching their recommendation, the USPSTF reviewed a number of trials assessing the harms and benefits of depression screening.

They concluded that individuals who were diagnosed with depression as a result of screening and who were treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy or a combination of both demonstrated improvements in symptoms and had better overall outcomes.

As such, the new USPSTF recommendation has been issued as grade B, which means the expert panel have at least a “moderate certainty” that screening all adults for depression will be beneficial.

Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, vice-chair of the USPSTF, comments:

Depression is not only common, it is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. The Task Force’s recommendation for all adults to be screened by their primary care physician will help to identify depression and connect patients with the treatment and support they need.”

The USPSTF is taking public comment on the recommendation until August 24th. The expert panel will review all comments before making their final recommendation.

Earlier this week, Medical News Today reported on a study revealing the discovery of a blood biomarker that could help identify women who are at highest risk for postpartum depression.