Identification of depression in an inner-city population using a simple screen

Marianne T. Haughey, Yvette Calderon, Sandra Torres, Steven Nazario, Polly Bijur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to compare a brief screening tool with physicians' usual practice in detecting depressive symptoms in patients presenting with somatic complaints to an inner-city emergency department. Depression is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Underprivileged patients who rely on emergency departments for primary care remain at risk for undetected depression. Methods: This prospective observational study included all patients older than 18 years presenting to an urgent care clinic staffed by emergency physicians in an urban public hospital during an eight-week period. Clinically unstable patients and those with a chief complaint of depression were excluded. After consenting, patients completed a previously validated two-question screening tool for depression. Patients identified as having depressive symptoms were referred to social workers for evaluation for possible psychiatric intervention. Results: Of the 226 patients enrolled, 55% (124/226; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 48% to 61%) screened positive for depressive symptoms. Physicians identified 14% (31/226; 95% CI = 10% to 19%) as having depressive symptoms. The κ value was 0.22 (95% CI = 0.14 to 0.29). All patients but one identified as positive by the physicians screened positive on the screening tool. Patients who screened positive were referred to social workers. The physicians failed to identify 19 of the patients who needed further psychiatric care. Conclusions: Depressive symptoms are common among patients in urgent care settings with somatic complaints. A simple screening tool identified more patients for further evaluation than does physicians' usual practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1221-1226
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Emergency service, hospital
  • Mass screening
  • Questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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