PHQ-9 Effectively Screens Adolescents for Depression

Sensitivity and specificity similar to that for adult population

MONDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 Item (PHQ-9) appears to be an effective method for screening adolescents for depression, according to research published online Nov. 1 in Pediatrics.

To test the validity of the PHQ-9 as a depression screening tool in adolescents, Laura P. Richardson, M.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues examined associations between the answers of 442 youths (13 to 17 years of age) on the PHQ-9 and self-reported measures of functional impairment and parental reports of children's psychosocial health.

For a PHQ-9 score of at least 11, the researchers found a sensitivity of 89.5 percent and a specificity of 77.5 percent for detecting youths who met major depression criteria according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Increasing PHQ-9 scores correlated significantly with worsened functional impairment and parental assessments of psychosocial difficulties and internalizing symptoms.

"Although the optimal cut point is higher among adolescents, the sensitivity and specificity of the PHQ-9 are similar to those of adult populations. The brief nature and ease of scoring of this instrument make this tool an excellent choice for providers and researchers seeking to implement depression screening in primary care settings," the authors write.

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