Acne Treatment Inversely Linked to Positive Depression Screen in Adolescents, Young Adults

Conceptual of problems on woman skin.
Researchers assessed the effects of BMI on topical acne treatments in younger patients.

The following article is part of our coverage of the American Academy of Dermatology’s annual meeting (AAD 2021) that is being held virtually from April 23-25, 2021. Dermatology Advisor‘s staff will report on the top research in dermatologic advances and clinical care. Check back for the latest news from AAD 2021.


An inverse relationship between acne treatment and positive depression screening scores was found by researchers at a dermatology clinic, according to study results presented at the American Academy of Dermatology’s Virtual Meeting Experience (AAD VMX) 2021, held online from April 23 to April 25, 2021.

Prior studies have positively linked acne treatment with depression and suicidal ideation. Investigators gave qualifying patients aged 11 to 29 the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2) depression screen, and dermatologists reviewed their scores. Of the 170 patients screened, 20 (11.8%) screened positive for depression.

Positive depression screens were strongly associated with a history of depression, with 33% of positive PHQ-2’s occurring in patient with a history of depression and 8% in those without previous depressive bouts (P =.0014).

An inverse relationship was seen between oral acne treatment and a positive depression screen (aOR 0.18, 95% CI, 0.03-1.08, P =.06). An inverse relationship was also seen between isotretinoin treatment and a positive depression screen (aOR 0.11, 95% CI, 0.01-1.27, P =.08).

Investigators found that adding depression screening to dermatology visits did not negatively affect providers’ workflow, particularly as the PHQ-2 is a brief, 2-question test that can be administered by a medical assistant.

The study was limited by the restricted availability of technology at the clinic. “In the future, we aim to administer the PHQ-2 within the electronic medical record to facilitate automatic documentation in patient charts,” the investigators stated.

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Lor M, Lonowksi S, Vandiver A, Patel N, Cheng CE. Depression screening for adolescent acne patients. Presented at: American Academy of Dermatology’s Virtual Meeting Experience (AAD VMX) 2021; April 23-25, 2021. Abstract/Poster 27260.