Study highlights need for research to determine how best to apply such questionnaires.
Short questionnaires used to identify patients at risk for depression are linked with antidepressant medications being prescribed when they may not be needed, according to new research from UC Davis Health System to be published in the September-October issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
Known as “brief depression symptom measures,” the self-administered questionnaires are used in primary care settings to determine the frequency and severity of depression symptoms among patients. Several questionnaires have been developed to help reduce untreated depression, a serious mental illness that can jeopardize relationships, employment and quality of life and increase the risks of heart disease, drug abuse and suicide.
The UC Davis team was concerned that the questionnaires might lead to prescriptions for antidepressant medication being given to those who aren’t depressed. Antidepressants are effective in treating moderate-to-severe depression but can have significant side effects, including sexual dysfunction, sedation and anxiety. They also have to be taken over several months to be effective.
“It is important to treat depression, but equally important to make sure those who get treatment actually need it,” said Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis and lead author of the study.
The exploratory study included 595 patients of primary care offices affiliated with Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, San Francisco VA Medical Center, Sutter Medical Group in Sacramento, UC Davis, UC San Francisco and VA Northern California Healthcare System.