1 in 3 Hospital Patients Shows Signs of Depression

A new study finds that about one in three patients admitted to the hospital exhibits symptoms of depression, potentially affecting their clinical outcomes. Depressive symptoms can delay recovery time, increase length of hospital stays, and increase the frequency of readmissions, for example.

The findings suggest that screening hospitalized patients for depression should be as routine as testing for physical markers, such as blood pressure and cholesterol.

For the study, researchers from the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles analysed data from 20 studies on depression screenings in hospitals. They discovered that 33 percent of hospitalized patients had symptoms of depression such as feeling down or hopeless, having little interest or pleasure in doing things, and experiencing significant sleep and appetite changes.

Lead author Waguih William IsHak, M.D., said that patients who have symptoms of depression are less likely to take their medications and keep up with their outpatient appointments. These behaviours could lead to delayed recoveries, longer hospital stays, and a greater chance of hospital readmissions.

‘Upon admission to the hospital, patients are screened for all kinds of medical issues such as abnormalities in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar,’ IsHak said. ‘Adding a screening for depression seizes a golden opportunity to initiate and maintain treatment.’

Cedars-Sinai routinely screens all hospitalized adult patients for depression. The screenings, performed by nurses within 24 hours of patient admission, comprise two questions on mood and interest in pleasurable activities.

If indications of depressive symptoms arise, nurses then give the patient a more detailed questionnaire about energy, concentration, appetite, sleep patterns, and other indications of depression.

Patients who screen positive for depressive symptoms receive interventions from their Cedars-Sinai admitting physicians, social workers and the psychiatry team, which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and a psychiatric nurse.

‘We know that depression is a serious factor in any patient’s recovery,’ IsHak said. ‘These findings show that hospitals might experience improved outcomes by initiating a depression screening program.’

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