Depression Screening Rates Low at Appointments for Acne

Health problem, skin diseases. Young woman showing her back with acne, red spots. Girl scratching her shoulder with pimples.
Screening for depression may be an opportunity for dermatologists to improve care for their patients with acne.

For patients with acne, depression screening rates are very low despite the association between acne and depression, according to study data published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The aim of this study was to assess in-office depression screening rates by dermatologists and primary care physicians for their patients with acne. Data were collected from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005to 2016 and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 2005 to 2011. Acne was identified using codes from the International Classification of Disease, and depression screening rates were estimated from the surveys.

Of the 67.9 million appointments for acne, 62.1% were held in a dermatologist’s office and 33.1% were in a primary care physician’s office. Dermatologists screened for depression at 0.6% of the appointments, and primary care physicians screened for depression at 2.2% of the appointments. Primary care physicians were more likely to screen for depression than dermatologists, and dermatologists were more likely to screen for depression during an appointment for acne than for any other reason.

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Limitations of this study included the potential of not capturing all depression screenings. Also, the sample size inhibited the investigators’ ability to compare screenings between new and follow-up appointments.

The researchers concluded, “in the United States, rates of depression screening at visits for acne were extremely low, despite known associations with depression and suicidality.”

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Taylor MT, Barbieri JS. Depression screening at visits for acne in the United States, 2005-2016 [published online January 20, 2020]. J Am Acad Dermatol. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.12.076