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Genet Test. 2004 Summer;8(2):114-9.

Prevalence of major depression one year after predictive testing for Huntington's disease.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Psychiatric hospitalizations, completed suicides, and suicide attempts are rare after predictive testing for Huntington's disease (HD). Case studies have shown that major depression can be a consequence of being tested, although no studies have shown how common this is. The present study evaluated the prevalence of major depression during the first year after disclosure. We conducted retrospective data and chart reviews of 153 persons (50 testing positive, 103 testing negative) evaluated every 3 months for depression. There was no significant baseline difference in the percentage of "positives" and "negatives" who had pre-testing major depressive episodes (14% vs. 12%, respectively). A senior psychiatrist reviewed data from the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia-Change Version, from the Beck Depression Inventory, and from clinical notes for every follow-up contact completed. The 1-year prevalence of major depression among positives was 6.0%, compared to 3.0% among negatives (p = 0.30), and an estimated 3% population prevalence. One-year prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms, whether or not major depression was diagnosed, was 20.0% in positives and 12.6% in negatives (p = 0.17). Although not statistically significant, depressive symptoms and major depression occurred more frequently among those who tested positive. Despite some evidence to the contrary, including our own studies, a positive predictive test for HD is not psychologically benign. Clinical testing programs should assess patients for depressive symptoms after testing, and patients with clinically significant complaints should be referred to a mental health professional.

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