Researchers develop new tool to identify youths at high risk of depression

A team of researchers has extended their efforts to identify a predictive tool that helps to identify young people who are likely to experience high or low depressive disorder when they reach around the age of eighteen.

The team include researchers from King’s College London and the study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Despite the prevalence of depression, little has been done to identify the causes, symptoms, solutions for the condition while predictive tools have already been developed for psychosis and many physical health conditions.
Family history and subthreshold symptoms which do not reach the criteria for depression are the two current methods for accessing the risk of depression.

Details of the study

For the study, researchers used data from over 2,000 Brazilian adolescents. With the help of this data, the team developed a tool that can help identify which young people will go on to experience a major depressive disorder when they reach 18 years.

Not just identifying the tool, the study also evaluated the performance of the tool in samples of adolescents from New Zealand and the UK. It demonstrated the differences in its ability to predict depression across these countries and highlighting the need to consider local variations when developing predictive tools.

“This research marks an important first step in developing an accessible tool that could help screen adolescents for depression and improve mental health worldwide,” said Valeria Mondelli, IDEA project lead and author on the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) King’s College London.

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She further added,”Depression can have debilitating lifelong impacts and adolescents are especially vulnerable to its onset. Identification of those at high risk of developing depression in later adolescence could be valuable in devising effective early-intervention strategies to help prevent this illness.”

Results of the study

The researchers identified 11 sociodemographic variables that could be combined into a single score to recognise those adolescents at risk of developing depression. In addition to a strong association with depression, the variables were chosen because they were also easy to collect and simple to evaluate.

Christian Kieling, lead author on the study from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil said, “In our study, we tried to go beyond more traditional ways of identifying youths at high risk of depression and learn from other medical specialities that combine multiple variables to generate composite risk scores, such as the Framingham cardiovascular risk score.”

Using the data, the researchers developed the tool to assess the risk of development of a major depressive disorder.

Dr Mondelli added, “As part of the IDEA project we are interviewing adolescents, parents and other stakeholders to understand their perceptions of this tool and the ethical implications of using it to stratify young people in terms of risk for developing depression. By doing this we hope that we can ensure that it can help improve the mental health of adolescents worldwide.”

After identifying the tool to access depression, the predictive ability was too conducted whose score was not as strong in the UK and New Zealand samples.

Courtesy: India Today

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