Adolescent depression is both under-identified and under-treated. Untreated depression has been associated with detrimental long-term health, interpersonal, and occupational outcomes. Additionally, there has been increased concern about youth mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, it is important to identify adolescents at-risk for depression and intervene early. First, this study aimed to examine trends in depression symptoms and associated sociodemographic factors in the past two decades in the context of school-based depression prevention trials. Second, this study aimed to describe depression symptoms observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 4,365 students (Mage = 13.7 years, SD = 1.2 years) from four depression prevention trials spanning 2002-2022 completed a validated depression screening measure to determine eligibility for the larger studies. Analyses indicated that there was a significant difference in mean screening scores across the 20-year time span while accounting for gender and age. The difference between pre- and post-pandemic onset screening scores was nonsignificant. However, means scores were highest between 2020-2022, with 66.9% of all adolescents reporting elevated symptoms of depression. Additional analyses showed that the odds of elevated depression symptom scores were higher for females and older teens. These findings highlight the importance of screening to promote linkages to care for at-risk adolescents. Further research is needed to explore variability in depression screening scores based on additional sociodemographic factors and to understand the impact of school-based depression screening on treatment initiation.
Bush, Morgan L., "Depression in the New Millennium: Examining 20-Year Trends in Depression Symptoms in the Context of School-Based Preventional Trials" (2022). Master of Public Health Capstone Presentations. Presentation 444.