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Task force advises against family doctors routinely screening for depression

Family doctors are being given new advice about screening for depression among their patients.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care issued an updated guideline Monday, advising against routine screening of patients with no apparent symptoms of depression.

The task force says there is little evidence in the medical literature to support routine screening of all patients and it could do harm.

Dr. Michel Joffres, chair of the task force’s depression guideline working group, says screening could lead to some patients being misdiagnosed and treated unnecessarily.

However, Joffres says family doctors should still be alert for signs of depression among patients at higher risk for the mental health condition.

They include patients with a history of depression and those belonging to groups in which depression occurs more often, such as the elderly and economically disadvantaged.

The new guideline is published in this week’s issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.