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Prediction of future episodes of depression in primary medical care : development of a risk factor profile

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Tackling depression via onset prediction

An innovative risk tool has been developed, marking the first instrument in the field of psychiatry able to predict the onset of clinical depression in primary care.


Depression is a serious medical illness that can have negative effects on all aspects of a person's life. Therefore proper diagnosis and treatment is of utmost importance. Although depression is a major public health problem in Europe, there was previously no method for predicting onset and maintenance of depression. In light of this the PREDICT project has explored the risk for the onset and maintenance of episodes of depression among primary care attendants in seven European countries. Nearly 900 attendants ranging in age from 18 to 75 were inscribed from urban as well as rural general practices in each country. The objective of the research was the development of a cross European multi factor risk score instrument. This can be used by general practitioners to predict the onset of depression. In order to test for international applicability, the instrument was validated in Chile. A diagnosis of major depression was made using the composite international diagnostic instrument. The evaluation was repeated six and twelve months later. Only patients not depressed at baseline were included. A risk equation was derived from the European data based on 11 of the 39 risk factors calculated at baseline. During the three years that followed, findings were disseminated in publications such as international medical journals of general medicine, psychiatry and primary care. Additionally, findings were presented at international conferences which cover these areas. The results are intended to be used for a risk assessment intervention tool to help prevent depression in primary care in the future.

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