Panel ad­vises de­pres­sion screen­ing for all adults

The guide­lines also sin­gle out preg­nant women and new­moms.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Ari­ana Eunjung Cha

All Amer­i­can adults should be screened for de­pres­sion as part of their nor­mal health- care rou­tine, an in­flu­en­tial panel rec­om­mended on Tues­day. The U. S. Preven­tive Ser­vices Task Force also sin­gled out ma­ter­nal men­tal ill­ness for the first time by sug­gest­ing that women be screened dur­ing preg­nancy and af­ter child­birth.

The new guide­lines, up­dated for the first time since 2009 and pub­lished in the jour­nal JAMA, are a recog­ni­tion of the dev­as­tat­ing toll men­tal ill­ness is tak­ing around the world. Re­searchers have noted a surge in di­ag­noses in re­cent years re­lated to the stress of mod­ern life and fears of ter­ror­ism, vi­o­lence and poverty. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­cently pre­dicted men­tal ill­ness would jump from the fifth lead­ing cause of death and dis­abil­ity to se­cond place by 2020.

The task force, an in­de­pen­dent body ap­pointed by the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, noted that ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der is as­so­ci­ated with sui­cide and im­paired abil­ity to man­age other health is­sues. An es­ti­mated $ 22.8 bil­lion was spent on de­pres­sion treat­ment in 2009, it said, and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity cost an ad­di­tional es­ti­mated $ 23 bil­lion in 2011.

“De­pres­sion has ama­jor ef­fect on qual­ity of life for the pa­tient and af­fects fam­ily mem­bers, es­pe­cially chil­dren,” the group noted in its re­port.

Screen­ing for de­pres­sion typ­i­cally in­volves start­ing with a se­ries of ques­tions about in­di­vid­u­als’ feel­ings about their lives. Ex­am­ples in­clude ask­ing them the ex­tent to which th­ese types of state­ments are true: “I can laugh and see the funny side of things,” “I feel as if I am slowed down,” or “I look for­ward with en­joy­ment to things.”

If th­ese ini­tial screen­ing tests show el­e­vated risk for de­pres­sion, providers are asked to con­duct ad­di­tional as­sess­ments to look for other is­sues such as anx­i­ety panic at­tacks, sub­stance abuse or other med­i­cal con­di­tions.

The re­port rec­om­mends screen­ing each adult at least once, but it notes that the “op­ti­mal fre­quency of such screen­ing has not been es­tab­lished.”

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