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Adolescent Depression Screening in Primary Care: Who is Screened and Who is at Risk?

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Limited research has simultaneously focused on sociodemographic differences in who receives recommended adolescent depression screening in primary care and who endorses elevated depression and suicide risk on these screeners. We describe screening and risk rates in a large pediatric primary care network in the United States after the network expanded its universal depression screening guideline to cover all well-visits (i.e., annual medical checkups) for adolescents ages 12 and older. Between November 15, 2017 and February 1, 2020, there were 122,682 well-visits for adolescents ages 12-17 (82,531 unique patients). The Patient Health Questionnaire - Modified for Teens (PHQ-9-M) was administered to screen for depression. A total of 99,961 PHQ-9-Ms were administered (screening rate=81.48%). The likelihood of screening was higher among adolescents who were female, 12-14 years of age at their first well-visit during the study, White, Hispanic/Latino, or publicly-insured (i.e., Medicaid-insured). Additionally, 5.92% of adolescents scored in the threshold range for depression symptoms and 7.19% endorsed suicidality. Heightened depression and suicide risk were observed among adolescents who were female, 15-17 years of age at their first well-visit during the study, Black, Hispanic/Latino, attending urban primary care practices, or Medicaid-insured. Odds of endorsing suicidality were also higher among teens who identified as other races. Limitations related to data available in the electronic health record and reliance on data from a single hospital system are noted. Findings highlight misalignments in screening and risk status that are important to address to ensure more equitable screening implementation and health outcomes.


Davis M, Jones JD, So A, Benton TD, Boyd RC, Melhem N, Ryan ND, Brent DA, Young JF