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preventive health services


Why is this important?

Depression can occur at any time over a person’s life. More than one out of 20 Americans 1twoyears of age and older reported current depression. Among Americans 1twoyears of age and over, a greater percentage of females reported depression than females. Almost one out of 10 adults aged 40 to 59 reported current depression. Depression is associated with significant healthcare needs, school problems, loss of work, and earlier mortality.


  • Is associated with an increased risk for mortality from suicide as well as other causes, such as heart disease.
  • Is associated with lower workplace productivity and more absenteeism, which result in lower income and higher unemployment.
  • Is associated with higher risk for other conditions and behaviors, including:
    • Other mental disorders (anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, eating disorders)
    • Smoking

What are the Risks?

Experts found that screening adults for depression in the primary care setting is accurate, that treatment for people identified through screening is effective at relieving symptoms of depression, and the likelihood of harm from screening and treatment is small.

Determining the best approach to care should be a shared decision between a doctor and patient. What treatment will be the most effective for an individual patient depends on how severe the depression is and other considerations, such as the person’s life situation, other health conditions, and his or her preferences for health care. The number of individuals needed to be screened to identify one case of depression is approximately 115 individuals.

There are many different approaches for treating depression, including psycho- therapy, medications, or a combination of these approaches.

How does depression screening work?

The goal of screening is to identify people who have depression so that they can get the help they need. In the United States, one common screening test for depression is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). The PHQ is a short questionnaire that asks patients to report how often they are bothered by problems such as a lack of pleasure in doing things, sad or hopeless feelings, sleep problems, or trouble concentrating. The PHQ also asks whether these problems are getting in the way of carrying out daily activities.

The question you may be asked in a survey or by your doctor will be similar to the following.

Over the past twoweeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problem?

  • Little interest or pleasure doing things
    • Not at all
    • More than half the days
    • Several days
    • Nearly every day
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
    • Not at all
    • More than half the days
    • Several days
    • Nearly every day

Frequently asked questions about depression screening

How Should I Talk to My Doctor about Depression ?
Acknowledging a mental health concern can sometimes be difficult. However, if you have been feeling sad or hopeless, or have lost interest in the things you used to enjoy, talk with your doctor or nurse.

During your conversation with your clinician, make sure all your questions and concerns are addressed. Think about your personal beliefs and preferences for healthcare and consider scientific recommendations, like this one. Use this information to become fully informed so that you and your doctor or nurse can decide what actions might be right for you.

Is Depression an Illness?
Sadness is something we all experience. It is a normal reaction to difficult times in life and usually passes with a little time. When a person has depression, it inter- feres with daily life and normal functioning. It can cause pain for both the person with depression and those who care about him or her. Doctors call this condition “depressive disorder,” or “clinical depression.” It is a real illness. It is not a sign of a person’s weakness or a character flaw. You can’t “snap out of” clinical depression. Most people who experience depression need treatment to get better.