Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Yankee Doodling

Depressed about depression

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 06 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5516
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

Depression is common and important, but are public screening days the answer?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just published 2006 and 2008 state based population rates for current depression in the United States.1 Using the seven questions from the patient health questionnaire 8 (PHQ-8) depression screening tool, which have been incorporated into their telephone administered Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, they found that 9% of the respondents met criteria for current depression (present in the previous two weeks). This included 3.4% who met the criteria for major depression. The sample size for this survey is very large—more than 235 000—but the response rates can be low, varying by state from 37% to 73%.

These data were released by the CDC with an advertisement for and to coincide with “national depression screening day,” an annual event that takes place every autumn in the US during a larger programme called mental illness awareness week. More about this shortly.

As the new data from CDC confirm yet again, depression is common. It is important as well. Everyone knows that the …

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