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Depression Screening Advised for All Adults

IMAGE The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for depression in adults. What does this mean for you? The next time you have a doctor's appointment, you may be asked questions about your mental health.

Scope of the Problem

It's been known for a long time that depression is a big problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a leading cause of disability in the US. In a given year, millions of Americans will be diagnosed with a mood disorder (depression, dysthymia, or bipolar).

A number of people with the disorder do not even know they have it. Other symptoms of depression such as irritability, memory or concentration problems, or trouble with relationships may be more obvious.

Depression is often disguised by other problems. It can also affect the recovery of people who have a major illness, major surgery, or a chronic health condition. Although the stigma tied to mental disorders is easing, many who are affected still go undetected or untreated.

Screening Advice

The USPSTF urges primary care doctors to screen all adults for signs of depression and give them appropriate treatment and follow-up care. This is especially important in the elderly, pregnant women, and new mothers (for postpartum depression).

Depression Questions

According to USPSTF, the following 2 questions are a good place to start:

  1. Over the past 2 weeks, have you ever felt down, depressed, or hopeless?
  2. Over the past 2 weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?

If your answer is “yes” to either question, contact your primary care doctor for an evaluation. Your doctor may advise completing a more in-depth questionnaire or having a thorough check-up.

Are You at Risk?

Research suggests depression comes from an imbalance of certain brain chemicals. The disorder is more common in people who inherit a tendency for depression or those who are exposed to certain environmental triggers.

If you have symptoms of depression that interfere with your daily routine, contact your doctor. A physical exam and psychological evaluation will be done to determine the cause.

Effective Treatment

Depression is treatable. Research has shown that antidepressant drugs and counseling—alone or in combination—are effective in combating the disorder. However, the combination of talk-therapy and drug therapy may be more effective than either alone. Alternative treatments, such as St. John's wort, are also being studied. And adjusting your lifestyle to include more exercise and social activities may help, as well.

You are encouraged to talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your mental health. If you have thoughts of death or suicide, call for emergency medical services right away. With better screening and medical care, the future looks brighter for adults with depression.

  • American Psychiatric Association

  • National Institute of Mental Health

  • Canadian Mental Health Association

  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

  • Depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed April 14, 2016.

  • Maurer DM, Darnall CR. Screening for depression. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(2):139-144.

  • Screening for depression in adult. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: Published December 2009. Accessed April 14, 2016.

  • Statistics. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2016.

  • Sui AL, US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), Bibbins-Domingo K, et al. Screening for depression in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016;315(4):380-387.