New Tool Can Help Predict Depression in General Practice

Depression is a global concern that puts a financial, social, and professional burden on communities and individuals. People with depression often experience more than one episode, and are at increased risk for other negative outcomes, including diminished quality of life, physical health problems, and other psychological issues. Many times, symptoms of depression exist for a long period of time before they are recognized and diagnosed.

General practitioners, therefore, may play a critical role in identifying those at risk for depression as they are often the first point of contact at risk individuals have with a health care professional. Although there are some tools that can help general practitioners identify depression, they are lengthy, time consuming, and often not cost effective. Further, they are usually only administered if doctors or patients have concerns about depression.

The need for a screening tool that can be easily and routinely applied in general practice is evident. In order to fill this void, Michael B. King, PhD, of the Faculty of Brain Sciences of the University College London Medical School recently collaborated with colleagues on the development of such a tool known as the predictD. This risk algorithm was designed to examine 10 specific risk factors: family history, mental health, physical health, education level, sex, age, work history, discrimination, and country of origin.

In a previous study, predictD proved to be quite effective at predicting depression over a 12-month period in a general practice participant sample. King recently extended his original findings by applying predictD to 4,190 participants over a 24-month period.

The results from this predictD study revealed that, similar to the findings from the first experiment, predictD was almost equally effective at predicting depression at 24 months. This result is promising and shows the potential clinical utility of predictD. Because the participants did not demonstrate symptoms of depression at screening, King believes this clearly shows that predictD can provide valuable predictive information for depression in a low-risk sample.

King added, “It may be useful as a strategy to identify those at risk in prevention efforts in general medical settings.” He believes future work should test predictD in other health care environments that provide opportunities for early identification and diagnosis.

King, M., et al. (2013). Predicting onset of major depression in general practice attendees in Europe: Extending the application of the predictD risk algorithm from 12 to 24 months. Psychological Medicine 43.9 (2013): 1929-39. ProQuest. Web.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Joe G

    Joe G

    September 12th, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    I thought that the general consensus would be that we didnt’ want family doctors making this kind of diagnosis, that there are too many in this field making incomplete diagnoses and that they should refer out to specialists in the field of mental health instead?

  • Virginia


    September 13th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    Yes, I know that there is some concern about a GP being able to make this sort of initial diagnosis when this is not his field of expertise, but I also think that the reality is that for many people this is their only line of contact to anyone on the medical community. The GP is the person they see for everything, from routine to health care to yes, even specialized health services. I really don’t know how more of these doctors don’t get burned out because they have to know so much about so many different things instead of just specializing but I think that the more information and tools that they have to help their patients the better served the health care community as a whole will be. And just because they start off with this doctor does not mean this is where they will ultimately get all of their care, but at least it gives them a good starting point.

  • Ryan


    September 14th, 2013 at 4:59 AM

    oh wow that’s pretty cool especially if the participants weren’t showing signs of depression at the time of screening but it was fairly indicative that they would develop depresssion down the road- handy if used correctly

  • DrJ


    September 16th, 2013 at 4:02 AM

    Why the hesitation about the general practices making a diagnosis? We are often the very first stop for many patients, so if we have screening tools that will help them receive help treatment sooner, then I am all for it, and I would think that many other health care advocates and professionals will be too.

  • dorothy


    September 17th, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    Surely I am not the only person who doesn’t want to go to the doctor for one thing and then have him or her tell me, oh by the way we ddi this other assessment, and you might feel fine right now, but eventually you are going to be depressed. Of course I am going to be depressed once someone tells me that I am going to be! That’s all I am going to think about!

  • general practioners

    general practioners

    September 30th, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    hey your blog very nice i like it.we want to tell some thing to you,that is we have a website for the annual General Practioners for Specialised annual examinations for women including pap smears, breast exams, pregnancy
    testing and ultrasound examinations

  • Brigid


    April 11th, 2014 at 2:57 AM

    I think it is a wonderful idea because I have been diagnosed Bipolar Disorder for a long time ( over 20 years). Before that I know I suffered at least another 10 years just trying to get a proper diagnoses. Family Practice Doctors were the first medical people I saw and they had no clue how to help me. They didn’t have any training. They should be trained to deal with basic Mental Health situations

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