0531 GMT October 04, 2022
"From a parent's perspective, I think it's important for them to know that depression can be relatively common in adolescence and we have ways to treat it," said Dr. Alex Krist, a member of the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
The USPSTF says about eight percent of US adolescents experience major depression each year. Less is known about how common the condition is among younger children, however, Reuters reported.
Children and adolescents with depression typically have problems at school, work and home. Being depressed early in life is also linked to increased risks of the condition recurring in adulthood, of suicide and of other mental disorders.
Previously, the USPSTF recommended screening for depression among kids ages 12 to 18 years if their doctor's office had systems in place for accurate diagnosis, psychotherapy and follow-up care.
To update its recommendation, the panel commissioned researchers at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to review existing research up to February 2015.
The review found no direct evidence of harms in screening adolescents for depression. They researchers also found evidence supporting the effectiveness of two particular screening tools when used for adolescents. The Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents and the Beck Depression Inventory are both questionnaires that teens can answer on their own.
"If they score high on those instruments, the next step would be to make a formal diagnosis," Krist said.
The final USPSTF report also states there are several ways to treat depression in adolescents, including medications and psychotherapy.
The authors acknowledge there are some risks in treating adolescents with medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but those potential harms are small when patients are closely monitored. Known side effects of SSRIs include weight gain, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, agitation or restlessness and headaches.
"I think what we want clinicians to hear is that there is pretty good evidence that routine screening in adolescents for depression and making sure they get the appropriate follow-up improves outcomes," Krist said.