Transdiagnostic and functional predictors of depression severity and trajectory in the Penn state psychiatry clinical assessment and rating evaluation system (PCARES) registry

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Background: Timely, accurate diagnosis and subsequent identification of risk factors for depression that is difficult-to-treat can aid in decreasing the burden of depressive illness and reducing probability of future disability. We aimed to identify sociodemographic, clinical, and functional factors that predict depression severity over one year in a real-world, naturalistic, transdiagnostic clinical sample. A subset sample with moderate depression was examined to determine the magnitude of improvement. Methods: The Penn State Psychiatry Clinical Assessment and Rating System (PCARES) Registry houses data from systematically-structured patient-reported outcomes and clinical data from an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) gathered during routine clinical care of patients seeking mental health care at a mid-Atlantic clinic. Self-report symptom and functional measures were obtained, and sociodemographic features and clinical diagnoses were extracted from the EMR from 1,766 patients between 2/6/2016 to 9/30/2019. The Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9) depression scale was obtained at each visit. Using a discrete mixture clustering model, the study population was divided into five longitudinal trajectory groups, termed depression severity groups, based on intra-individual PHQ-9 score trajectories over one year. Multinomial logistic regression models were estimated to evaluate associations between characteristics and the likelihood of depression severity group membership. To determine the magnitude of improvement, predictors of the slope of the PHQ-9 trajectory were examined for patients with moderate depression. Results: The strongest predictors of high depression severity over one year were poor functioning, high transdiagnostic DSM-5 Level 1 crosscutting symptom score, diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), public/self-pay insurance, female gender, and non-White race. Among the subset of patients with moderate depression, strong predictors of improvement were commercial insurance and exposure to trauma; the strongest predictors of worsening were high functional impairment, high transdiagnostic Level 1 symptom score, diagnosis of PTSD, diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and marital status of single or formerly married; depression-specific symptom measures were not predictive. Limitations: Limitations include inferring education and income status from zip code level-data, the non-random missingness of data, and the use of diagnoses collected from the electronic medical record. Conclusion: Functional impairment, transdiagnostic measures of symptom burden, and insurance status are strong predictors of depression severity and poor outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-94
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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