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‘Depression detector’: Researchers develop new tool to identify teens at risk of mental health problems

‘Depression detector’: Researchers develop new tool to identify teens at risk of mental health problems
Researchers from King’s College London have developed a new tool to predict which teens are most at risk of developing depression when they turn 18, based on a comprehensive set of factors.

The researchers studied over 2,000 Brazilian 15-year-olds, using 11 factors including family relationships, drug use, academic success or failure, as well sex and skin color to provide a composite risk score. 

According to Dr. Valeria Mondelli of King’s College London, who co-authored the study, the research marks an “important first step” in improving detection of and treatments for depression.

The researchers tried to go beyond traditional methods of diagnosing mental health risks in young people and compiled their data with risk scores used to predict other health problems, such as the Framingham cardiovascular risk score which assesses heart attack risk. 

The tool was found to be less effective at predicting the mental health risks for children in those in the UK and New Zealand (1,144 British 12-year-olds and 739 15-year-olds from New Zealand), but this was attributed to a dearth of information and different mental health assessment methodologies used in those countries.

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Co-author Dr. Christian Keiling of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil said that local variations need to be considered when developing such predictive tools. 

Roughly 17.3 million adults, or seven percent of the US adult population, has had at least one major depressive episode, according to National Institute of Mental Health statistics.

The research was published in the journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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