Screening for Depression

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening adults for depression “when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place to assure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and follow-up.” (Grade B recommendation)1

Sample evidence-based screening tools for depression:
  • Consider initially screening with PHQ-2 in all patients2

    Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
1.       Little interest or pleasure in doing things
0 = Not at all
1 = Several days
2 = More than half the days
3 = Nearly every day
2.       Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
0 = Not at all
1 = Several days
2 = More than half the days
3 = Nearly every
A score greater than or equal to 3 suggests possible depression.
  • PHQ-9 – sensitivity of 61% and specificity of 94%2:
  • Geriatric depression scales may be used in patients 65 years and older2
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) is another valid screening tool for depression3


Sample evidence-based screening tool for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD):
Screening alone does not improve health outcomes – it needs to be combined with depression care and treatment in order to be effective5
Depression screening qualifies as a free preventative service under the Affordable Care Act6

  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for depression in adults. December 2009. Accessed December 2, 2014.
  2. Maurer DM. Screening for depression. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jan 15; 85(2):139-44.
  3. Wang YP, Gorenstein C. Psychometric properties of the Beck Depression Inventory-II: a comprehensive review. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2013 Oct-Dec; 35(4):416-31.
  4. Biggs WS, Demuth RH. Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2011 Oct 15; 84(8):918-24.
  5. O'Connor EA, Whitlock EP, Beil TL, Gaynes BN. Screening for depression in adult patients in primary care settings: a systematic evidence review. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Dec 1; 151(11):793-803.

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