Routine screening for depression sounds like a very good thing, and in fact it is recommended by NIMH, and by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (a division of the Department of Health and Human Services), and various other groups. Medicare will pay the total cost of one depression screening per year.
But it has long been suggested by those of us on this side of the debate that routine screenings, especially those “free” screenings that are paid for by pharmaceutical companies, have had a distinctive flavor of disease-mongering.
On May 13, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article by Michel Joffres et al (Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care) titled Recommendations on screening for depression in adults. You can see it here. (Thanks to Mad in America for the link.)
The authors conducted a comprehensive study review and came to the following conclusion:
“Our recommendations highlight the lack of evidence about the benefits and harms of routinely screening for depression in adults. In the absence of a demonstrated benefit of screening, and in consideration of the potential harms, we recommend not routinely screening for depression in primary care settings, either in adults at average risk or in those with characteristics that may increase their risk of depression. However, clinicians should be alert to the possibility of depression, especially in patients with characteristics that may increase their risk of depression, and should look for it when there are clinical clues, such as insomnia, low mood, anhedonia and suicidal thoughts.” (Emphasis added)
This conclusion reverses the guideline of the 2005 Canadian Task Force for Preventive HealthCare which had recommended routine depression screening for adults in primary care settings.