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May 23, 2002

Preventive Services Task Force recommends depression screening

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, this week released a recommendation that doctors begin to screen all adult patients for depression. The task force also noted that all doctors should have systems in place to support accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and follow-up for depressed patients.

The new recommendations and a background article with a review of the evidence are published in this week’s issue (May 21) of the Annals of Internal Medicine.


Dr. Alfred Berg, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the UW, chairs the task force and has done several media interviews on the subject.


Five to 9 percent of adult patients in primary care settings suffer from depression, the task force found, and up to 50 percent of these cases go undetected and untreated. According to the review, people at increased risk for depression include women, those with a family history of depression, the unemployed, and those with chronic disease.


The task force did not recommend one screening tool over another, did not recommend for or against screening of children or adolescents, and did not specify a frequency for depression screening.


Depression screening is the eighth recommendation from the current task force. The full depression screening recommendation and a list of other topics under review by the task force are available at the Web site http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/depression  


More information on depression and a free brochure are available for downloading at http://doctorsforadults.com. The Web site and brochure were developed by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.