Introduction: Less than half of U.S. adolescents with major depressive disorder receive treatment. Despite the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force 2016 statement supporting primary care major depressive disorder screening, there is limited data examining whether positive screens prompt treatment engagement. This study evaluated treatment engagement following a positive Patient Health Questionnaire-Adolescent Version screen and assessed the impact of demographics, clinical variables, and provider recommendations on treatment engagement. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study (analysis November 2021) of adolescents aged 11–18 years seen at a primary care clinic of an academic medical center from July 2017 to December 2018 and identified with a positive Patient Health Questionnaire-Adolescent Version (broadest definition score ≥10; ≥1 for Item 9 regarding suicidal thoughts; yes for unscored Items 1, 3, or 4; or very or extremely difficult for unscored Item 2). Positive screen by score ≥10 alone was also considered. The primary outcome was treatment engagement, defined as initiation of a psychotropic medication, or a behavioral health treatment session within 1 year of symptom identification. Results: Of the 1,315 eligible adolescents, 23.0% had a positive Patient Health Questionnaire-Adolescent Version (n=302) by the broadest criteria; 92/302 (30.5%) engaged in treatment. Patients whose providers recommended treatment had 7.32 times the odds (95% CI=3.76, 14.2, p<0.001) of treatment engagement. For those positive by Patient Health Questionnaire-Adolescent Version ≥10 (85/302, 28.1%), 37/85 (43.5%) engaged in treatment. The influence of provider recommendations was comparable (OR=6.96, 95% CI=3.56, 13.6, p<0.001). Conclusions: Less than half of adolescents with a positive Patient Health Questionnaire-Adolescent Version at an academic primary care clinic engaged with treatment. Provider recommendation was an impactful intervention to improve mental healthcare treatment engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-116
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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