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New risk score tool for predicting depression

UK researchers have developed a ‘Framingham-style' risk score for predicting future bouts of major depression.

It is hoped the risk algorithm, which was developed and tested on 5,200 people across Europe, will eventually be used in GP surgeries to spot patients at high risk of depression in the next year.

Factors included in the risk score, which is already available online, include age, sex, educational attainment, family history, physical health and questions about difficulties at work, experience of discrimination and previous episodes of depression.

The tool was also validated in 1,700 people in Chile and is reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Study leader Professor Michael King said the researchers were planning a trial in GP practices to assess if use of the tool could help prevent depression in those at risk. ‘We know a lot about how GPs can be effective in treatment of depression but it would be wonderful to see if you can prevent it.'

Options to be considered for intervention include brief counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy or just flagging up the risk in the patient's notes.

Professor Andre Tylee, professor of primary care mental health at King's College London, said he had seen the results of the research prior to publication and was impressed with the ‘highly original' concept.

‘They have developed a Framingham-type instrument for depression,' he said.

‘It looks like this tool may have great potential for use in primary care to alert primary care professionals and their patients to the risk of depression over the ensuing year.

The tool is available at www.ucl.ac.uk/predict-depression/

New 'Framingham' style risk score tool developed for predicting future depression

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