In teens with depression, there are two factors that seem to predict whether the symptoms will go away without treatment: the severity of the depression and whether it persisted for at least six weeks. This is according to a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers also looked at other factors that might predict the duration of depression, including substance abuse, family history and abuse. But these other factors “did not predict which adolescents would stay depressed,” said Dr. Laura Richardson of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.
The results are important because the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended in 2009 that teens be screened for depression in primary care settings. The goal of the study is to avoid unnecessary treatment for those with temporary symptoms.
The researchers screened 444 participants ages 13 to 17 from Washington and Idaho in 2007 and 2008; 113 of them had a positive screening for depression.
At six weeks, 47 percent of those teenagers still screened positive. At six months, the portion dropped to 35 percent, said the researchers.
“As we institute broad-based screening of adolescents in primary care settings, we are likely to encounter an increased number of youth who have short episodes of depression that resolve with monitoring and support,” the researchers said.
Studies have shown a relatively high rate of placebo effect when teens who screen positive for depression are treated with medicatios. The researchers, however, have said that it might be instead that the depression simply resolves itself.
Approximately 12 percent of girls and 4.5 percent of boys in the U.S. have had a major episode of depression in the previous year.
The researchers noted there’s a need to figure out which adolescents should have treatment and which just need “watchful waiting” once their primary care doctor diagnoses depression. They added that teens who are suicidal or who have major functional impairment should be treated.