New Recommendations Say All Adults Should Be Screened for Depression

The report also specifically says pregnant and postpartum women should be tested.


Antidepressants photo via Shutterstock

According to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), every adult should be screened for depression at least once during his or her lifetime.

The guidelines are more extensive than the group’s 2009 suggestions, which called only for screening “when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place.” The 2016 guidelines also say that pregnant and postpartum women should be screened, a completely new addition.

Nancy Byatt, a professor at UMass Medical School and medical director of maternal mental health organization MCPAP for Moms, says encouraging pregnant women and new mothers to get screened could make a significant impact on public health.

“Ensuring that pregnant and postpartum women are emotionally well is critical for our society and future generations,” she says. “Maternal depression has an incredible economic and societal impact.”

Byatt adds that she hopes the new depression screening guidelines—which mirror the goals of MCPAP, a resource providing psychiatric care for pregnant women and new mothers in Massachusetts—will compel insurers to reimburse perinatal depression testing, and help make programs like MCPAP more commonplace. “Getting help is the best thing an expectant mom can do for themselves and their baby,” she says.

The same holds true for anyone suffering from depression. In the recommendations’ accompanying article in JAMA, the USPSTF wrote that early detection of depression improves treatment and outcomes, and noted that testing comes with little to no added risk. The article calls for screening to be implemented by primary care providers or gynecologists, who would then refer at-risk patients to a specialist for treatment.

The severity of depression—and the fact that it affects about 14.8 million American adults—makes across-the-board screening worthwhile, according to the report.

“[Depression] is the leading cause of disability among adults in high-income countries and is associated with increased mortality due to suicide and impaired ability to manage other health issues,” it reads. “Depression has a major effect on quality of life for the patient and affects family members, especially children.”