Depression and role impairment among adolescents in primary care clinics



      To evaluate the association between depression and role impairment in a primary care sample, with and without controlling for the effects of general medical conditions.


      Cross-sectional survey of consecutive primary care patients, ages 13–21 years (n = 3471), drawn from six sites including public health, managed care, and academic health center clinics. We assessed probable depressive disorder, depressive symptoms, and common medical problems using youth self-report on a brief screening questionnaire. Main outcome measures were two indicators of role impairment: (a) decrement in productivity/role activity, defined as not in school or working full time; and (b) low educational attainment, defined as more than 2 years behind in school or ≥ 20 years of age and failed to complete high school.


      Adolescents screening positive for probable depressive disorder had elevated rates of productivity/role activity decrements (19% vs. 13%; OR 1.69; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.39–2.06; p < 0.001) and low educational attainment (20% vs. 15%; OR 1.47; 95% CI 1.21–1.78; p < 0.001). Probable depressive disorder made a unique contribution to the prediction of these impairment indicators after adjusting for the effect of having a general medical condition; controlling for depression, the presence of a general medical condition did not contribute to role impairment.


      Adolescent primary care patients screening positive for depression are at increased risk for impairment in school/work productivity and educational attainment. These findings emphasize the importance of primary care clinicians’ attention to depression and role limitations.


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