Inaccurate depression tests put kids at misdiagnosis risk

Washington DC: Turns out, your kid’s chance of getting misdiagnosed with depression is greater than you think as a recent study has found that screening tools are inaccurate for children and adolescents, reports ANI. In Canada and the U.S., doctors are increasingly being encouraged to try to identify depression in children and adolescents, even if they do not have obvious indications of the disease.

In order to do so, the physicians often use short questionnaires that ask about symptoms of depression, but according to the research, there is insufficient evidence to show that any of these questionnaires accurately screen 6- to 18-year-olds for the disease.

The researchers believe that this calls into question the use of these assessment tools for this group and raises worries about possible misdiagnosis of the disease in this age range. “Our study shows that if depression screening were carried out using existing screening tools, many non-depressed children and adolescents would be mistakenly identified as depressed,” said senior author Brett Thombs of the McGill University.

In order to assess the quality of the screening tools that are currently being used to identify depression in children or adolescents, the researchers carried out an exhaustive search of the medical evidence looking for studies that put the screening tools to the test. In the end, they were able to identify just 17 studies where the test results from the screening tools were compared with results from a diagnostic interview to determine if the children or adolescents in the study actually had depression.

Thombs and colleagues then assessed the methodology and results of these 17 studies. Lead author Michelle Roseman noted, “There was not a single tool with even moderate evidence of sufficient accuracy to effectively identify depressed children and adolescents without also incorrectly picking up many non-depressed children and adolescents.”

Thombs believes that given the inaccuracy of the tools currently being used, some children could end up mislabelled as depressed. “This could lead to the unnecessary prescription of potentially harmful psychiatric medications and negative messages about the mental health of some children who do not have mental health disorders.”

Researchers said that to properly assess the accuracy of depression screening tools in children, large, well-designed studies that present results across a range of cut-off scores are needed. The study appears in Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

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