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Acta Derm Venereol. 2005;85(5):414-9.

Screening for depressive disorders in patients with skin diseases: a comparison of three screeners.

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Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Dermatological Institute IDI-IRCCS, Rome, Italy.


Despite being common, depression often goes undetected in patients with skin diseases. Our aim was to examine and compare the performance of three depression screeners. We studied dermatological inpatients aged 18-65 years. They completed the questionnaires Primary Care Screener for Affective Disorders (PC-SAD), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) and General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and were administered a standardized psychiatric interview (SCID-I) by a mental health professional, who was unaware of the questionnaire answers. The analysis was performed on 141 patients with complete data (79% of all eligible patients, 89% of all patients who agreed to participate). The prevalence of the main forms of depression, major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder, was 8.4% and 6.3%, respectively. For major depressive disorder, the sensitivity and specificity of the questionnaires were as follows: PC-SAD, 73% and 88%; PHQ, 55% and 91%; GHQ-12, 73% and 78%. For dysthymic disorder, the sensitivity and specificity were as follows: PC-SAD, 56% and 95%; PHQ, 44% and 90%; GHQ-12, 56% and 76%. The small sample size suggests caution in drawing conclusions about the relative merits of these screeners. Although both the GHQ and the PHQ are short and easily hand scored, the first is a generic screener for psychiatric morbidity that is not specific for depression, while the second displayed modest sensitivity. The PC-SAD, with short average administration time, acceptable sensitivity and high specificity, might be particularly useful in settings where the technology for computer automated scoring is available. Although screening programmes might be useful, they should be supplemented by quality improvement programmes and by the development of consultation-liaison services.

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