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Adolescent Depression Symptom Trajectories Detected Via Universal Screening in Pediatric Primary Care

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Unique trajectories of adolescent depression symptoms have been identified, yet less is known about whether such patterns translate to real-world clinical settings. Because annual adolescent depression screening is becoming more prevalent in primary care, we examined whether longitudinal patterns of depression symptoms documented in the developmental psychopathology literature can also be detected via routine screening in primary care and explored how membership in the identified trajectories varied based on concurrent suicide risk and sociodemographic factors. A total of 1,359 adolescents aged 12-16 years old at the first timepoint were included in the current analyses. These adolescents completed three depression screeners during their well-visits in a large pediatric primary care network between November 15, 2017 and February 1, 2020. Retrospective electronic health record data were extracted, including sociodemographic variables and depression screening results. Dynamic functional time series clustering results indicated the optimal number of clusters was five. The five depression symptom trajectories were: (1) A-Shaped (i.e., relatively low depression symptoms at Time 1, a substantial increase in symptoms at Time 2, and a return to low symptoms at Time 3), (2) Increasing, (3) Low-Stable, (4) High-Decreasing, and (5) Low-Decreasing. Cluster differences in suicide risk largely mapped onto depression symptom levels at each assessment. We found cluster differences based on practice location, insurance type, and adolescent race. The symptom trajectories observed in this study resemble those found in the developmental psychopathology literature, though some key differences were noted. Findings can inform future research and symptom monitoring in primary care.


Davis M, Jones JD, Gallop R, So A, Dysart G, Young JF